Earth Week in Wisconsin Dells

Debbie keeping watch over the land

“No man can own the Dells. He can only be its custodian for a time.” —George H Crandall (Dells business man and environmentalist who bought the boat company in 1929)

In my desire to interview long-time Dells residents, I met environmentalist Debbie Kinder in her home, one that has been in her family for generations. As I stood in front of her picture window, mallards and buffleheads splashed or dunked in Eddy’s Run near Meadowbrook Resort. Wood ducks explored under her feeders alongside cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches.

Debbie was destined to advocate for preserving the Dells’ natural beauty and to be a custodian for its future. As the great granddaughter of the famous landscape photographer H.H. Bennett, Debbie grew up surrounded by family members who loved and cared for the land.

Debbie agrees wholeheartedly with George Crandall’s statement about our needing to be custodians and lives what she preaches. When asked what she felt was her greatest accomplishment, she mentioned her work with the Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River. She’s quick to remind me that many others are involved, too, but the passion for the project is clearly evident in her voice.

We spoke about the Ho-chunk, the first stewards of the Dells, who strive to make decisions that result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. Debbie mentioned the 2018 Ho-Chunk amendment that enshrines the rights of nature, the first indigenous nation to do so. The amendment protects the land from such violations as frac sand mining and fossil fuel extractions.  
Debbie is also active on the Dells Tree board and helped see to it that we became a Tree City. George Crandall’s name came up once again since he was one of the earliest people to see the importance of reforestation. We can see an example of his actions by driving on River Road just north of Chula Vista.

The Tree Board helps plan Arbor Day activities and gives away saplings. This year we’ll enjoy a ceremony at Bowman Park at 1:00 pm on April 29th. The Dells county Historical Society will plant a tribute oak tree in memory of Bud Gussel, Dells business man and civic leader.

Debbie is a great steward in both big events and small actions. If you encounter her on one of the awesome hiking trails in the area, you’re sure to see her carrying a litter bag.

When I asked Debbie what she hoped Dells-area residents would do to celebrate Earth week, she mentioned three things.
1. Project Clean, run by Rotarian Dave Clemens, is an opportunity to pick up roadside litter during the last week of April and the first week of May at a location when it’s convenient for you. Last year, my husband and I picked up litter on a stretch of Vine St. that ran from Spring Hill school to Highway 16. We called Debbie and chose the area we wanted. Garbage bags were provided and participants can either haul them off themselves or Debbie will contact the city to do so. Afterward, we joined other participants in a picnic held at Lake Delton’s park. Call Debbie  at (608) 253-6658 for current information.
2. Get involved by joining either The Stewards of the Dells of the Wisconsin River or become a member of the Tree board.
3. Enjoy nature. We are blessed with many amazing hiking trails. Besides Mirror Lake, Rocky Arbor, and Devil’s Lake, try one of the “Dells of the Wisconsin River” trails. One that is rarely busy is located at 804 61st St, Wisconsin Dells, and allows you to hike down to a sandy beach. Another is off of River Road just north of Birchcliff Resort.

 As George Crandall said, we’re not meant to own the Dells, but only to care for it. My deepest appreciation to all those in the past and the present who are doing this. Because of you, future generations will get to enjoy it too.

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