The historic kiosk in Portage County’s Buena Vista Wildlife Area has been restored and will be rededicated at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 7.
The state Department of Natural Resources, along with partner organizations and donors, will host the rededication ceremony on the eastbound side of County Trunk W, one-quarter mile east of its intersection with County Trunk F, near Bancroft.
The kiosk was erected in 1993 to recognize the contribution of the greater prairie chicken to Wisconsin’s rich natural history. The kiosk also serves as a gateway to the Buena Vista Wildlife Area.
The kiosk has become a traditional place of a meeting spot before heading off to view prairie chickens on early April mornings, a destination for birders and other wildlife watchers and a stopover for curious folks passing through. The kiosk also offers visitors an opportunity to learn about these unique grasslands and the species that depend on them.
“Over the years, the kiosk had fallen into disrepair and it became apparent that there was a need for a structural repairs and a more informative kiosk that was visually attractive to visitors,” DNR wildlife biologist Lesa Kardash said.
The interpretive panels needed to be redesigned and put on more durable material; an information case was needed for seasonal information; the two grassland murals needed repainting; the roof was leaking and needed new shingles and beams; ground timbers needed to be replaced; and new gravel added. The audio box was not operating and Buena Vista conservationists wanted to replace it with a box that had higher-quality acoustics and a greater variety of grassland bird vocalizations.
“From the onset, the renovation was truly a community participation project,” Kardash said.
Local organizations that provided financial support included the Aldo Leopold Chapter of the Audubon Society, the Dane County Conservation League, the Community Foundation of Greater South Wood County, the Natural Resources Foundation through a Besadny Grant, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Becoming an Outdoors Women program and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. Several local artists provided use of their digital wildlife images for panels.
“Much-needed support was also provided in the form of staff time and grant writing and administration,” Kardash said.
Golden Sands Resource, Conservation & Development staff acquired and oversaw the Besadny grant.
Linda Lyon, a UW-Stevens Point environmental education student, donated time to work on panel design. Thomas Provost of Wisconsin Rapids Boy Scout Troop 118 completed his Eagle Scout project by building and installing a maple bench and a brochure display box, as well as organizing a kiosk area clean-up day with his troop. They also installed new wooden beams to hold gravel.
DNR staff replaced roof shingles and beams, spread gravel and installed the panels and audio box.
The names of donors, from the kiosk’s original conception to the just-completed renovation, have been engraved on metal plaques and mounted inside the kiosk.
“We are truly grateful for the generosity of the organizations and individuals in this community,” Kardash said. “Because of them, the kiosk will continue to serve as a gateway to the Buena Vista Wildlife Area, providing a more informative, memorable experience for all who come to visit the grasslands.”