Picture the most beautiful cathedral you’ve ever seen: the stained glass windows, arching buttresses, rising spires. How many people must have been involved in its creation over decades, if not centuries? Many of the people who initially envisioned the cathedral may not have lived to see it completed, but the project carried forth because these leaders painted a vision, created clear plans, and cultivated inspiration in others who saw the vision through.

Cathedral building and natural resources protection are birds of a feather when it comes to timeline and personnel. By developing and sharing a clear vision and plan, and by sharing these with others, conservationists can ensure their project will someday be realized for the benefit of the community.

Wisconsin Wetlands Association is a key partner in a project to develop this kind of vision and plan for the City of Mequon. The collaborative, known as Mequon Preservation Partners, includes public and private partners and committed community members and leaders.

Mequon is home to important natural resources, including the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers, critical wildlife habitat, and a core of already-protected conservation lands. At the same time, it is poised at the urban-rural boundary north of Milwaukee: rural in the west, suburban in the east. With population projected to increase 26% by the year 2050 and increased demand for residential and commercial development, Mequon’s natural resources are and will continue to be challenged. Yet Mequon’s large physical size—nearly 49 square miles—offers tremendous opportunities for enacting policies and practices that could have broad positive implications for natural resources in the city and for the region.

The partners began by building on excellent work done by the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department to develop a GIS decision support tool. This tool brings together the best local information related to critical issues like flood control, water quality, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat to identify areas in Mequon that are most important for preserving these natural and societal benefits. By pinpointing areas where these natural and societal benefits overlap, we can see where we can get the “most bang for our buck” and protect these places before they are lost forever. The partners are working with the community to determine how the tool can best be used in Mequon’s planning and development efforts.

At the same time, the partnership is working to build public awareness of and support for open space protection and restoration by developing outreach materials, hosting events and presentations, and earning local media coverage. We are encouraging a community that values and speaks up for open space in city decision-making.

A final—and critical—goal of the partnership is identifying effective and innovative strategies to incentivize and finance open space protection, restoration, and management.

The Mequon Preservation Partners want to help landowners, businesses, and the City plan for smart, strategic development, agricultural production, and open space protection and restoration for the benefit of current and future generations. Our goal is to inspire a natural cathedral—a connected, beautiful network of open spaces in Mequon that will provide clean water, flood protection, recreation opportunities, and wildlife habitat. Today’s work to paint an inspiring vision, articulate a clear plan, and inspire the community will make this natural cathedral a reality.

Learn more about Mequon Preservation Partners’ work at facebook.com/MequonPreservation.

The Mequon Preservation Partners:
This project is funded by the Brookby Foundation, the Fund for Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Special thanks to Landscapes of Place for sharing their great “cathedral” model with us. Read more about their work to develop the cathedral model as a conservation planning tool (with work also funded by WCMP and NOAA).

Photo by Emily Buck

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