Sunday, January 28, 2018

Can proposed Kohler golf course really protect historic sites?

Milwaukee's Lake Park, laid out by the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted who also created New York City's Central Park, has taken note for more than 107 years of its one surviving native burial mound
Lake Park is located on land the known history of which stretches back into antiquity. A prehistoric Indian Mound reminds today’s park visitor of the original inhabitants of the area. Although we do not know who built this mound, it is believed to have been peoples of the Mid-Woodland Culture (300BC-400AD), primarily hunter-gatherers who constructed mounds as burial or ceremonial centers. 
Originally one of a series of conical mounds that were later destroyed (some even in the development of the park), this single mound is the last known remaining within the city of Milwaukee. In 1910, the Wisconsin Archaeological Society placed a historic plaque on the mound in order to ensure its preservation.
Wisconsin was the center of this mostly-lost mound-building culture, and continues to be a center of its study.

When I'm walking the paths and trails in Lake Park, I like to stop at the surviving mound; a few quiet moments there lets me imagine life and humanity in our area centuries ago. It make me appreciate on whose land and footsteps I'm walking. 

I wondered when I was over there last week what, if anything, we've learned since this marker was laid down, knowing that even a signature Olmsted park had leveled native mounds out of convenience, or ignorance, or both, and also knowing that there are continuing threats to some of the remaining, similar artifacts across Wisconsin.

And I wonder if the Kohler company, should it get to build its proposed golf course on a 247-acre, densely-forested, wetland-and-artifact-rich nature preserve south of Sheboygan almost twice the size of Lake Park - - and given the extent of the tree-cutting, wetland-filling and extensive development it wants to carry out there - - can successfully keep its commitments to preserve a burial mound there?

Tall order? You bet. 

While the project's website pledges in its environmental section that - - 
Kohler Co. will leave the known Indian burial mounds completely undisturbed..." 
- - the recently-released Wisconsin DNR environmental impact statement about the project notes on pages 63-64, Archeological and Historic Resources, says about Indian mounds on the site that "the largest of these sites...extends over most of the property…," further noting on page 70:
Summary of Adverse Impacts That Cannot Be Avoided
The site’s nearly 100% forested canopy would be reduced by nearly half...
Approximately 3.7 acres of wetland would be lost due to filling including impacts to approximately 1.36 acres of Great Lakes ridge and swale wetlands, a wetland type that is considered “imperiled” in Wisconsin.
My point is that protecting those precious few mound and archeological sites on the property from damage and destruction during two years of bulldozing for tree-cutting and wetland filling, then during and after construction of an 18-hole golf course, a 5.7 irrigation pond, a 22,000-foot multi-story clubhouse, a driving range and a big parking lot  - - and then for years and years while golfers chase after errant shots and visitors explore the grounds - - is going to take a helluva lot of caution and planning and follow through.

And protection from pro-business WI GOP legislators who'd just as soon see them flattened for their rock.

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