My WILD experience

By Fran Glass; photos by Bob Siemer and Ann Earley

Wild Ones members at the national meeting

Fran and Ann at the national meeting

As a sixteen-year member of Wild Ones, 2013 was the first time I took advantage of the opportunity to attend an Annual Membership Meeting. It will certainly not be my last.

It was such a joy to meet dedicated people from all over the country who share my native plant landscaping passion, who care enough about the Wild Ones organization to attend the Annual Membership Meeting. With whom better to share and exchange ideas?

The Fox Valley (WI) Chapter graciously volunteered countless hours preparing for and hosting the weekend. I felt welcomed by each and every volunteer who always had a smile and kind words to share.

Fran and Wild Ones Executive Director, Donna VanBuecken

Fran and Donna VanBuecken, Wild Ones Executive Director

It was a privilege to meet some of the Board of Directors members who generously donate their time and talents to keep our organization moving forward.

The workshop sessions provided a forum for idea exchange about chapter events, issues, committees, activities, etc. There also was plenty of time to socialize and further exchange ideas. Soon a compiling of notes from the workshops will be posted on the national website by staff members for all to utilize.

The dedicated and talented staff provided their full attention to every detail. Donna’s superior leadership sets the tone for excellence. Thanks to Donna, Jamie and Joan for your day-to-day work for our organization, both as employees and volunteers.

Wild Center and pollinator prairie at the national Wild Ones office

Wild Center and pollinator prairie

I had seen photos of our headquarters, yet was amazed to experience it in person. As I approached the Wild Center the beauty of the landscaping was breathtaking. I was greeted by an exquisite rain garden that fronts the building. It was later pointed out to me that the walkways are made of permeable pavers that allow rain water to filter through the pervious basin below ground into the garden. Additional majestic gardens surround the lovely home-turned-office building. The pollinator garden is abundant with native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. Equally abundant were the pollinators including several species of butterflies. The landscape was much more beautiful than I imagined.

The property consists of 16 acres of marsh, riparian woodland and upland on the west shore of Little Lake Butte des Morts which is on the Fox River and part of the Great Lakes Watershed.

Native plant garden at the Wild Center

Prairie garden and riparian woodland

Several years ago the foresighted Wild Ones leadership seized the opportunity to step up its promotion of environmentally sound landscaping practices. Located in the Fox Valley, home of one of the largest PCB contamination clean-up projects in the world, the WILD Center is now a showplace of what can be done to restore the health of an ecosystem. And a permanent national Wild Ones headquarters of which we can be proud has been established. The Center is a showcase for Wild Ones philosophy, serving as our headquarters and inviting everyone to enjoy the biodiversity within. Here we are able to help people learn about native plants and natural landscaping, while at the same time preserving, restoring and establishing native plant communities on the site.

Sitting rocks in the outdoor meeting area

Newly-installed Council Ring

I am proud to be part of this organization. My wish is that every Wild Ones member would have the opportunity to experience the Wild Center and an Annual Membership Meeting.