From the Ground Up
Lakeshore State Park opened in June of 2007 and was entirely re-graded to bare ground and seeded before the grand opening. All of the native and turf grass areas are relatively new and are still under development. It will take some time for the soil to develop and support the desired species of plants that will in turn support the native wildlife.
Lakeshore State Park visitors often wonder why there are no trees on the island portion of the park. When the Park was first being planned, there was widespread agreement that the spectacular view of Lake Michigan should be preserved without obstruction. As a result, plantings on the island portion are limited to prairies and turf. There are well over 50 trees on the Park just north of the pedestrian bridge, which will provide shady access to the park as they mature.
Many natural areas of the park consist of short-grass prairies, a plant association native to Wisconsin but not the Milwaukee area. Short-grass prairies were selected because of their resistance to drought, a wide variety of colorful flowers, multiple wildlife habitats and colorful winter grasses. Little bluestem, prairie dropseed, and sideoats gramma dominate the grasses. Among the flowers, the bright orange butterfly weed, purple prairie clover and yellow coreopsis flourish in the summer. Fall brings a variety of asters to provide late-season color. Watch closely for the “Plant of the Week” signs around the Park to learn about what is currently in bloom.
In 2008 and 2009, the Park staff planted prairie demonstration areas just north of the pedestrian bridge and immediately north of the fishing pier. Their purpose is to show park visitors how the large island prairies will eventually look. They also provide great examples of natural landscaping for homes and businesses with plants that do not get too tall or untidy. The plantings are flourishing with over 30 species of flowers and now provide wildlife habitats as well as colorful displays year round. Signs in these areas identify the plants, their uses and history.
The large prairie areas are still in the early stages of development, where weed control is absolutely critical to allowing the prairie plants to grow and mature. Most weeding is done by repeated machete cutting, the only really efficient way to deal with the vast numbers of weeds and the hard soil on the Park. Watch closely for the “Weed of the Week” signs that identify which problem plants we are currently removing.