By Eileen Persike
Two hundred and ten acres of marsh, land and shoreline along the Wisconsin River’s backwaters will remain as it is today, forever.
On Earth Day, April 22, Scott and Ann Eshelman signed a land protection agreement with the Northwoods Land Trust. Executive Director Bryan Pierce said the NWLT got its start because of lake organizations and landowners who wanted to try and protect the last remaining stretches of shoreland on their lakes. In fifteen years, the trust has protected more than 11,000 acres of land and now more than 50 miles of lake and river shoreline.
“A conservation easement is the legal name on the document being signed today,” Pierce said. “It’s an agreement between the land owners and the trust to make sure this 210-acre property is protected in perpetuity, which is a long time.”
Saying that anyone who knows him knows that he likes things simple, Scott Eshelman explained simply what he and Ann are doing.
“We’re giving a gift to nature,” he said. “And it’s not just that we are giving a gift, we’re proud and happy to give a gift that keeps on giving and will give forever.”
The signing of the legal documents took place at Newbold Town Hall during the annual Northwoods Sustainability Fair. With high school students in attendance, Ann Eshelman told of the history and now the future of the property her parents, Paul and Marian Munninghoff, bought in the 1940’s.
“My dad fought all the way to the State Supreme Court in order to retain control over that property and won at every step along the way,” she said. “It was always a real concern to my parents, that the property would be protected that it wouldn’t fall into the hands of a developer who would subdivide it and build homes along the shore.”
Pierce said he is delighted to work on the property, known as Munninghoff Marsh.
“Our commitment as a land trust is to make sure we can monitor the property and that the terms will remain regardless of who owns it,” Pierce continued. “And then also legally defend that conservation agreement if necessary.”
Her parents likely never heard of a land trust or a conservation easement, but if they had, Ann Eshelman said they would have jumped on it and would be very happy knowing the property they fought for is protected.
“It has all come together this week and it all seems very amazing to me because today is the 100th anniversary of my mother’s birth,” Esheman shared. “She was born April 22, 1916, and she would be extremely pleased to look at these young faces and know that the property that she watched over with vigilance… extreme vigilance is being handed down for your use and your enjoyment and to preserve it.”
The land can be seen from the pier at Backwaters Bar and Grill on Hwy. 47 North. The area is important, according to Scott Eshelman, because the Department of Natural Resources has determined and designated it to be one of the most ecologically and biologically significant pieces of land in the state.
“Basically every species of bird that flies through the state flies through this marsh,” he continued.” We think, but don’t quote me — there is a pair of nesting swans out there, and not only a plethora of bird life, but fish and wild rice. It’s a wonderful, wonderful resource and we are happy to share it.”