La Crosse Tribune, January 6, 1999
Hixon Forest will be expanding its boundaries to the north, thanks to a local environmental foundation that is working with the city of La Crosse and the Department of Natural Resources to buy and preserve about 50 acres of bluffland.
The Paul E. Stry Foundation has signed an offer to purchase the Miller-Peterson property, a 51.5 acre parcel on the north end of Hixon Forest east of Hwy. 16, said Robert Skemp, foundation director.
The foundation will pay $190,000 for the property and donate it to the city to be managed under the Hixon Forest Management Plan. The bluffland property is adjacent to Hixon Forest and will connect the forest to a 5 acre outcropping on Miller’s Bluff that was donated to the city in the same fashion several years ago.
“I think the whole community is very interested in preserving the face of the bluff,” Skemp said. “It really is a significant part of living in La Crosse.”
The foundation will receive financial assistance for the project through a $77,253 grant from the DNR and a $20,000 contribution from the city, Skemp said.
Mary VanFossen, DNR community services specialist, said the foundation will receive the grant as soon as the paperwork is finished. The grant requires a 50 percent match by the foundation, and the terms of the grant require the property to be held in its natural state.
The grant is administered by the DNR through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, a 10-year, $250 million program established in 1989 to expand opportunities for outdoor recreation, protect and restore wildlife habitat, preserve high quality natural areas and protect water quality and fish habitat, VanFossen said.
Brenda Haug, executive director of Hixon Forest Nature Center, said preliminary discussions have been held on the use of the bluffland property, which also features an old logging trail.
“It’s quite hilly, but it’s going to be a great addition to the forest,” she said. “I know that there is some interest in expanding the trails in the area; however, we need to look at that carefully because (the land) is so steep.”
Haug said there seems to be a renewed effort by environmental groups and organizations that have been working together to preserve local natural areas.
In the past few years, some projects that have been completed include:
Haug said preserving natural areas is important not only for the beauty of the area, but also for providing space for the creatures using the natural migrant corridor along the Mississippi River Valley.
- The 160 acres behind the weather station on the bluff was rezoned to conservancy in 1995.
- The Paul E. Stry Foundation acquired a 5-acre bluff outcropping in 1995 on Miller’s Bluff and donated to the city to be managed under the Hixon Forest Management Plan.
- The Wisconsin Farmland Conservancy spearheaded an effort in 1996 by several groups to donate a 17-acre blufftop area adjacent to Hixon Forest to the city to be managed under the Hixon Forest Management Plan.
- The DNR was given approval in September to purchase 1,350 acres on a willing-seller basis to create the La Crosse River Marsh Natural Resources Area.
Hixon Forest started out as a 300-acre forested area purchased by Mrs. Gideon Hixon in 1912, Haug said. The forest is now about 750 acres.
“People are realizing how important it is and what an asset these areas are to the people of La Crosse and the city – especially economically with tourism,” Haug said. “I think that has a lot to do with keeping areas nice and natural.”
You can take the T.N.T. trail up from the Hixon parking lot, come in on the old road named Bluff Pass, or from Rim of the city Road.
Make sure you have hiking boots or good shoes on. The terrain is very steep, rocky, and there could be muddy conditions. Check the terrain rating and the attributes so you bring what you need. Please take your time and plan well. Most of all, have fun and be safe. Take a picture and tell us about your adventure.
The cache is an regular with a log book, pencil and some items for trade. This is a great place to watch the sunset over the Minnesota bluffs. Come on up and enjoy the views!