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three people around artistic chimney swift tower with ceramic murals on it

Ozaukee County celebrates 10th annual Treasures of Oz!

July 17, 2019  |  Topics: Events, Spotlight


By Tom Mlada

Photographs by Eddee Daniel

The 2019 iteration of the beloved “Treasures of Oz” event – the 10th anniversary edition – was another wonderful success!

The annual event gives the public an opportunity to tour selected public and private parks and preserves throughout the county. This year’s Treasures of Oz event was held on Saturday, June 15th. The morning was very busy and attendance appeared to be heading for an all-time high. Unfortunately, a little after noon the wind switched to off-the-lake and the temps plummeted into the low 50’s. Although attendance dipped at that point, some hardy souls continued to drift in to Forest Beach Migratory Preserve (north of Port Washington), which was the final stop on the tour. There they could turn in their event passports (which proved that they’d visited the other sites on the tour), participate in a Silent Auction, and take in a number of speakers, displays and activities.

Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and Tom Mlada posing in Instagram frame next to Sauk Creek
Cheryl Nenn, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, with Tom Mlada
at Sauk Creek Nature Preserve

In total, this year’s event recorded about 600 site visits as participants shared time with Treasures of Oz volunteers at six stunning Ozaukee County natural areas. Four of these areas are Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) Nature Preserves. The other two are Virmond Park – a County Park in Mequon – and Birchwood Hills Nature Preserve, a City of Port Washington preserve. Selection of these extraordinary public open space sites highlights what Treasures of Oz is all about: a partnership of organizations and individuals who bring together their efforts and resources to promote environmental awareness, education and stewardship of the extraordinary natural resources of Ozaukee County.

Lone hiker on meadow trail at Birchwood Hills Nature Preserve
Hiker on the meadow trail at Birchwood Hills Nature Preserve

Speaking of community, the group of Treasures of Oz volunteers is almost a community in itself. This year, almost 90 individuals representing 24 different environmental organizations gave of their time (almost 1,000 hours’ worth, in total!) and talent to make the event fun and memorable. Site “docents” provide information, lead tours, stamp passports, and serve as event ambassadors. A good number of them have been volunteering for all 10 years. Forest Beach Migratory Preserve has the largest number of volunteers in one place and our “Celebration” there is as much a reunion of friends as it is a Treasures site.

Ozaukee County Parks employee holding a salamander at Virmond Park
Tina Kroening with salamander at Virmond Park

This year’s Treasures of OZ event integrated a unique element: an infusion of inspiring art! Many of this year’s tour sites have been part of a new artist-in-residence program, the result of a partnership between the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and Gallery 224 in Port Washington. Called ARTservancy, the program has placed celebrated local artists in a dozen OWLT nature preserves for a year to create work that evolves from their four-season interaction with nature.

Artist Sally Duback with her colorful art installation, which functions as a chimney swift tower
Artist Sally Duback with her tiled art installation–which doubles as a chimney swift tower

Virmond Park has its own art installation – the largest in Ozaukee County parks and preserves – created by artist Sally Duback with contributions from Ozaukee County students. Duback and several of the ARTservancy artists were on site during the event to interact with tour visitors.

Yellow flag iris blossoms at Birchwood Hills Nature Preserve
Yellow flag iris blossoms at Birchwood Hills Nature Preserve

Attendee feedback, as always, was very positive. People who attend Treasures of Oz each year love the event and express a hope that it will continue (and often share ideas for it!) It is very rewarding for Treasures of Oz leadership, with Marjie Tomter at the helm, to hear attendees celebrate the new nature-based recreational opportunities about which they have learned. The community of visitors and volunteers that has developed around this event is one of the positive outcomes we have experienced.

In short, Treasures of Oz once again proudly fulfilled its mission and generated new awareness of and excitement about some of the county’s unique, publicly accessible natural places and open spaces!

THE TREASURES OF OZ TOUR

  • Virmond Park, Mequon
restored wetland with pond, cattails and staked tamarack trees
This restored wetland was featured for the tour
young woman in wetland with trap
Ozaukee County Parks Program Assistant, Tina Kroening with demonstration trap in the wetland
three people with dogs in front of swift tower art installation
Artist Sally Duback with visitors to her swift tower installation
One side of swift tower showing colorful tile mural
One side of swift tower showing tile mural
  • Sauk Creek Nature Preserve, Port Washington
Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Cheryl Nenn with net demonstrating how to catch macro-invertebrates in the creek
Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Cheryl Nenn demonstrating how to catch macro-invertebrates in the creek
Nenn shows visitors how to identify macro-invertebrates as others look on from bridge
Nenn shows visitors how to identify macro-invertebrates
family of four in Instagram frame posing for a selfie at the creek
Visitors ham for a selfie near the creek
Artist in residence Rise Andersen working on a demonstration piece using basketry techniques on a wooden plaque
Artist in residence Rise Andersen working on a demonstration piece using basketry techniques on a wooden plaque
  • Cedarburg Environmental Study Area, Cedarburg
a lone hiker in a pine grove
Hiking the pine grove
Artist in residence Andrew Musil showing a visitor examples of cyanotype images he's made on site
Artist in residence Andrew Musil showing a visitor examples of cyanotype images he’s made on site
  • Hames Preserve, Waubeka
tree-lined Milwaukee River with reflections of clouds
Milwaukee River frontage at Hames Preserve
Artist in residence Hal Rammel and camera with a teenage boy next to Milwaukee River
Artist in residence Hal Rammel with a young protege
man walking the prairie path at Hames Preserve
Rammel walking the prairie path
Drone operator Phil Morales with one of his drones in flight
Drone operator Phil Morales with one of his drones in flight
  • Birchwood Hills Nature Preserve, Port Washington
yellow wildflowers and grasses in a meadow
Wildflowers in a meadow
a creek lined with tall grasses
The creek
a man with a camera in a birch grove
Artist in residence Michael Bunton among the birches
Wild geranium blossoming among grasses
Wild geranium blossoming among the grasses
  • Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, Port Washington
a smiling young woman artist with linoleum block cut and print sitting at a table
Artist in residence Nicole Shaver with one of her linoleum prints
young woman admiring the milkweed in bloom and cattails next to a ponds with thunderhead
Admiring the milkweed in bloom and cattails along one of the preserve’s ponds
man holding snapping turtle
Wildlife biologist Randy Hetzel with snapping turtle
boy looking at a rattlesnake in a glass tank
Young visitor observing rattlesnake

For more information go to the Treasures of OZ website.

Tom Mlada is the Director of Development for Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks.