Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Locks Paddle a big success

By David Horst

Like the 4-minute mile or Hank Aaron's home run title, it was a record made to be broken.

Paddlers pack 186 boats into Appleton Lock 4.
The most boats ever jammed into a Fox River lock was 169, set twice in the past decade. The record fell and fell hard Saturday as part of the joint North East Wisconsin Paddlers and Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway's Appleton Locks Paddle.

The Appleton Locks Paddle sardined 186 boats into the locks. They were mostly kayaks, a few canoes, stand-up boards, two 25-foot canoes and rescue boats from the Outagamie County Sheriff's Department and the Appleton Fire Department.

This was the sixth time we've held this paddle and it has been surprisingly popular. Paddling 6.5 miles in about three hours — including sitting in four locks while the water is drawn down to let you into the next section of the river — may seem like a "been there, done that" kind of thing, yet people keep coming back to do it again, and lots of new people join them.

Saturday, 219 people decided to do it.

It was the perfect no storm.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

VanBuecken left a wilder landscape

By David Horst 

TOWN OF MENASHA — To explain how well Donna VanBuecken knows her craft, I only have to recall a native plant rescue she organized probably 15 years ago.

I was among a group of volunteers who were to dig up native plants from a prairie that had been planted at a Fox Cities medical facility. The owners were advocates of native landscaping but they needed the space to expand the business and, well, business is business.
Donna VanBuecken is retiring from Wild Ones

Through some act of miscommunication, the prairie was mowed the day before the rescue. We wandered through the field of stubble unsure what was weed and what was flower. Donna, executive director of Wild Ones Native Landscapers, not only recognized which were keepers, but she could recite the species.

VanBuecken has announced her retirement and the Wild Ones reports it is close to naming her sucessor. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

High Cliff is in Cindy Mueller's DNA

Two women who have been leaders in environmental causes in the Fox Valley have announced their retirements. Today I look at the career of Cindy Mueller, who served as a naturalist at four area nature centers. The next column will look at Donna VanBuecken's quest to encourage native landscaping as executive director of Wild Ones.

By David Horst

SHERWOOD — Working as a pharmacy technician at a drug store 30 years ago, Cindy Mueller had this recurring dream about teaching in a classroom, a dream so vivid that she experienced the smells of the school building. Then the dream would change to her fishing.

Cindy Mueller
It wasn't until she took a job in 1987 as a naturalist at Fallen Timbers Environmental Center near Black Creek that the dream’s meaning became clear. Bringing the outdoors into the classroom and the students into the outdoors as an environmental educator took her to nearly every Fox Cities nature center. And it won't end with her retirement Oct. 31 as High Cliff State Park’s naturalist.

High Cliff has always been in her blood. Her great grandparents had a place near what is now the park entrance. Her parents lived up on the ridge that gives the park its name.

“I kind of grew up here,” she said. “As a child, High Cliff was the place to go.”