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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.