It's always refreshing when local communities band together to make their city a better place to live. Recently, the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce in Fort Atkinson, WI unveiled its refurbishment of the Brietzke Educational Wetland.
Members of the chamber’s 2015-16 Project LEAD class spearheaded fundraising efforts for making improvements along the boardwalk and AC Business Media, the company that publishes Sustainable Construction Magazine, was happy to help.
Named after retired Purdy Elementary School principal Rick Brietzke, who initially helped utilize the wetland as an outdoor learning lab, Brietzke Educational Wetland is home to a variety of wildlife and offers opportunities for learning, growth and overall well-being.
Enhancements completed to the wetland by the Project LEAD class included the increase of safety features along the boardwalk railing, improved accessibility and the installation of signage and a storybook walk showcasing local stories, facts and artwork.
In addition to the enhancements, the Purdy Elementary School’s Green Team will continue to maintain the Brietzke Educational Wetland by introducing green initiatives in the school and ensuring that the wetland stays clean and safe for all the wildlife.
Further Wetland Development
Brietzke, who along with retired Purdy teacher Carol Burrows and local naturalist and retired biology teacher Dick Wanie, conceptually had the idea of preserving the wetland and the community took charge spending the time and effort to develop the wetland.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Brietzke thanked Project LEAD for selecting this project and the various donors supporting it to make the improvements possible. He pointed out that it takes a little bit of interest and access to the outdoors to make something like the wetland happen.
“Sometimes that interest doesn’t get started unless you have someone willing to take you outside and get you to appreciate the outdoors or be able to access a place like this,” the retired principal said.
Brietzke pointed out that within a two-block radius of the wetland are more than 1,000 people who have walking access. With the refurbishment, he said, that can be extended to those walking by with strollers or wheelchairs.
“Access equals opportunity to get into a place like this,” Brietzke says.
Through the years, hundreds of Purdy Elementary School’s courtyard-hatched mallards have been released in the wetland, which has provided teachers with advanced techniques in how to teach environmental education. Students have enjoyed learning about and identifying the animal life within the wetland, including predacious diving beetles and water scorpions.
Artwork Adds to the Experience
During the project, Project LEAD replaced the old railing along the boardwalk, installed a new cable safety fencing and added concrete approaches leveling the path to the boardwalk. The highlight is the storybook walk, which is essentially a story that is told along a pathway on a trail or in a park. The storybook walk became a reality thanks to an art sponsorship by AC Business Media.
A long supporter of the Fort Atkinson Community, AC Business Media jumped at the opportunity to showcase six nature pieces from the Ernie Pope Show, a student art show it sponsors in conjunction with Fort Community Credit Union.
“Six nature pieces selected from the Ernie Pope Show will be featured in storyboard frames at the Brietzke Educational Wetland,” explained Kirsten Crock, creative director at AC Business Media, who coordinated the company’s sponsorship for the Ernie Pope Show. She photographed the six art pieces that will be enlarged, framed and displayed at the wetland. “It’s such an honor for these six young artists to have their pieces displayed at the wetland,” Crock commented.
Currently, winning artwork from the Ernie Pope Art Show are displayed in the five storybook cases along the boardwalk. Art by Ashley Peters, Tatiyana Samueals, Carter Hill, Michelle Lumbarri, Angele Unate and Tala Drescher is featured.
“Our art sponsorship for the wetland project was a natural extension of our support for the Ernie Pope Show and a wonderful way to support student artists and our community,” says Carl Wistreich, CEO at AC Business Media.
View all the photos of the Brietzke Educational Wetland refurbishment and the ribbon cutting ceremony here.