(Brodhead, WI) Founded in 2018 by local conservationists, scientists and philanthropists, Three Waters Reserve – an event center and nature reserve located on 57 acres of the former Decatur Lake Golf Course near Brodhead, WI – is rapidly becoming a gathering place for the conservation community.
Three Waters Reserve’s conservation mission was bold, loud and clear from day one. Restoration efforts on the former golf course began immediately after its purchase, starting with ceasing the regular application of fertilizers, fungicides, and other pesticides, and a momentous 60-acre controlled burn (pictured). The lawns were then planted to sunflowers – a common cover crop used in early phases of restoration – then to several hundred species of native Wisconsin wildflowers and grasses. Visitors watched with delight as the sunflowers gave way to sweeping colorful landscapes and a multitude of diverse flora and fauna, including several rare and uncommon plant species like the rare purple-fringed orchid.
The orchestrated beauty of this rolling landscape did not go unnoticed by many conservation partners – including local restoration enthusiasts and firms, federal and state agencies, and clubs interested in conservation. Numerous open houses for the community were attended by hundreds, including a community sunflower event where the flowers were not only admired for their beauty, but served as a gateway for introducing the conservation narrative to the public.
Three Waters Reserve’s conservation mission has also been alluring to event organizers seeking a venue for annual company meetings, weddings and class reunions. Others have driven from all over the upper midwest to participate in conservation-driven workshops and special events – such as a recent fall foraging series, a chef’s table featuring wild native ingredients and locally-raised meats, outdoor art workshops, citizen science training and more. Attendees of events have reported feeling a heightened sense of conservation awareness and appreciation for Southern Wisconsin’s wild landscapes.
This October, Three Waters Reserve’s story of converting a golf course to a permanently protected conservation resource area was shared with over sixty students studying land conservation through the Confluence of Young Conservation Leaders, led by retired Wisconsin DNR Secretary, George Meyer. Aspiring conservation leaders from universities in Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Missouri learned that hundreds of other failed golf courses stand vacant and could become important conservation assets for their community and region, much like Three Waters Reserve.
Looking back to the first open house in 2018, the sunflower event was an emotional moment for those involved in the restoration. The beautiful golden flowers turned toward the August sun served as a beacon of hope, rebirth, and a symbol of the bright future ahead for Three Waters Reserve. Two recent workshops focused on protection and restoration of the unique and globally-important natural resources of the adjacent Sugar River and the multi-state “driftless area” resulted in over $2.5 million in donations. The funds will be used for regional conservation and land restoration projects in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.
Calling all conservationists and conservation-minded individuals: You are invited to the annual Holiday Open House at Three Waters Reserve! Come walk or snowshoe the public trails, enjoy hors d'oeuvres and sip hot drinks. This is a free event, but consider bringing a gift for the land. Keep Three Waters Reserve in mind for your next special event or wedding! It’s your vow to ensure Southern Wisconsin’s precious native landscapes will remain for years to come.
N3941 Golf Course Rd, Brodhead, WI 53520
Sunday December 4th, 2022 (1-3pm)