OutWiGo Green brings thousands to Ottawa Lake despite the rain!
May 17, 2023 | Topics: Events, Places
By Eddee Daniel
I was stunned—and a little overwhelmed—at the number of people who showed up at Ottawa Lake State Recreation Area in the rain on Saturday. It wasn’t raining when I left home or I probably wouldn’t have taken the 40-minute trek from Wauwatosa. But then I would have missed a hugely popular and successful event. I’d checked the forecast, which predicted clearing skies. I drove uneventfully all the way to the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The rain began just before I arrived at Ottawa Lake. It was exactly 10:00 am, when the event was slated to begin, and my second surprise, after the rain, was discovering already full parking lots everywhere I went. Wisconsinites clearly love the outdoors—even in the rain!
What does it take to draw you out of the comforts of home and into the natural world? While I make it a personal and regular practice, others benefit from a little nudge. This is where an event like OutWiGo Green comes in.
OutWiGo is a Wisconsin State Park System health and wellness initiative focused on promoting the mind, body and community benefits of outdoor recreation. OutWiGo has been bringing people out to the parks for special events for quite a while now, but this one was expected to be the biggest so far. OutWiGo Green was held at several venues in addition to Ottawa Like, all within the sprawling Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. It featured over 70 exhibits and organizations with clinics and demonstrations, along with numerous activities such as hiking, birding, trail running, kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, orienteering and on and on. The Activities List extended for eight pages!
The “Green” in the event title had dual meanings. As you might expect, one of them relates to conservation and the need to “go green” in order to maximize the sustainability of our everyday lives. The other meaning suggests that the event should attract people even if they are “green” or inexperienced in the outdoors and the park system. The latter goal was clearly achieved, according to reports from the field relayed to me in an email by Taylar Foster, a DNR Program Specialist: “DNR staff and participating exhibitors reported that several people had caught fish for the first time, rode an ATV or 4WD for the first time (including a 78 year old man), kayaked for the first time, and came to the demo campsite with questions because they had never been camping before!” I love that!
Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail
I was there to get a taste of it and to try my hand at getting photos for this blog post. But I couldn’t possibly see it all! At first, the rain dampened my enthusiasm for some activities (sorry for the pun!). So, I bought a poncho in the Ranger Station (a good deal for $2) and headed across the street to the trailhead for the Scuppernong Springs Trail. Not wanting to juggle my camera and spare lenses in the steady drizzle, I left them in the car and set out with only my iPhone to document what I came across. I’ll let the photos carry the story for a bit:
Ottawa Lake State Recreation Area
By the time I got back to Ottawa Lake it was nearly noon and the rain began tapering off. I had brought a bag lunch not knowing that the event included a slew of food trucks. Once again, I was surprised at the number of people doing things in the lingering rain. The big fishing pier was packed, fishing rods sticking out in all directions like a porcupine. At a smaller pier I watched as a young girl, eight or nine maybe, pull up a small, four- or five-inch, silvery fish. She passed it on to a boy not much older who threw it back into the water.
As I wandered down the pathways of the Ottawa Lake grounds among the exhibitor booths, I got another surprise: Many of my favorite organizations and parks were represented, including Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Havenwoods State Forest, Lakeshore State Park, Natural Resources Foundation, the Hank Aaron State Trail—and over 40 others. I was greeted by a number of people I know along the way, too—a very pleasant bonus!
Although I was getting a bit tired from all the exertions, the weather was also finally clearing up. I didn’t quit when I normally would have. The afternoon turned out to be perfect. I headed over to the Scuppernong Trailhead to check out what was happening there. Once again, I lucked out as things there just kept getting better and better. More my type of activity, for one thing, such as hiking on the Ice Age Trail, which runs through the park at this point. You could even give the Ice Age Trail mammoth mascot a hug! Or fashion your own hiking stick and take it home with you.
I was thrilled to see two booths set up to provide accessibility options for the disabled. What if, when your inner need to get outdoors and enjoy a bit of nature kicked in, you couldn’t simply go for a walk in the woods? Plenty of people with mobility issues need specialized equipment to go for that “walk.” Access Ability Wisconsin offered tracked, motorized all-terrain Trackchairs similar to the ones I wrote about at Wehr Nature Center. UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) of West Central Wisconsin had Terrain Hoppers with large wheels that look more like traditional ATVs, but calibrated to a maximum 4 mph so that they can be used legally on most hiking trails. These demos were popular even amongst some non-disabled visitors!
One of the highlights of the day for me was taking a hike with a small convoy of these off-road mobility vehicles. The pace of the vehicles served to slow me down, which helped me commune with my surroundings. But more than that, the joy clearly evident on the faces of the hikers in their wheeled and tracked vehicles boosted my own already considerable joy at being immersed in the sweet surroundings of the Scuppernong Trail.
Before heading home, I stopped by to chat with the horse-riding folks at their booth. Although they were not providing horses for the public to ride, there was a beautiful horse there and its owner, Kricket Jewett, graciously offered to mount up and pose for me on one of the trails. Then just as I was leaving, coincidentally, I ran into a couple of people who had come to ride the bridle trail not knowing about the OutWiGo event at all! It was just another day in the park for them.
If you were not among the estimated 3,000 people who attended OutWiGo Green, don’t worry: The park is open every day. No need to wait for another event!
The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail: A Saunter through History
Photo essay: Ottawa Lake Recreation Area
Where to do the DNR Challenge: Do It Nearby!
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks.
2 thoughts on "OutWiGo Green brings thousands to Ottawa Lake despite the rain!"
I really enjoyed this article, photos and most of all that this took place in the Southern Kettles. Kudos to everyone who made this happen and to Eddie, for his excellent reporting.
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