Note: This article was written by Mary Pat O’Connor, President of the Delavan Lake Improvement Association, and published in The Delavan Enterprise on November 8, 2019
You may have seen the stream that flows under the highway 67 bridge just south of I-43 in Elkhorn. This stream is Jackson Creek and can be seen from the bridge snaking through the tall grasses surrounding the creek. The Jackson Creek watershed is an environmentally sensitive area and is vital to Delavan Lake health. Jackson Creek meanders from the upland agricultural areas through the wetlands finally making its way to the Delavan Lake Inlet. In 2003 a 34-acre preserve was established and donated by Mel & Connie Helms to the Land Trust of Walworth County. Six years later the land trust merged into the Kettle Moraine Land Trust who has since been managing the preserve for plant and animal diversity.
In the mid 1800’s as development entered the Elkhorn area, the Oak Savanna, wetland and prairie surrounding Jackson Creek were quickly developed into farmland. The soils were so productive it led to trees cleared and wetlands destroyed for the purpose of farming. Today we know these practices negatively impacted the water quality and wildlife in the system. With the help of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and Kettle Moraine Land Trust, the Jackson Creek watershed is currently a healthy preserve containing native plant species and habitat for aquatic life, insect species, butterflies and other pollinators.
In 2017, a Jackson Creek Watershed Protection Plan was created by the Southeastern WI Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). The purpose of this plan is to provide a framework for communities in the area to work together toward a common mission of preventing resource degradation. Protection from human impact and water pollution is crucial for the resources of the Jackson Creek and Delavan Lake.
Today, the Preserve is maintained by Kettle Moraine Land Trust and species diversity is monitored by the WDNR. In addition, the Rock River Coalition provides volunteer stream monitors who conduct monthly citizen science testing in two locations on Jackson Creek. Like the Delavan Lake watershed, Jackson Creek has a constant battle with sediment runoff from agricultural land. To counter this the Delavan Lake Improvement Association (DLIA) continues to grow its relationship with farmers in the watershed to develop best management practices which promote soil health. The DLIA’s mission is to help educate farmers to utilize more cover crop options to keep fields covered all year eliminating soil loss and erosion. Everything that run offs the farms upstream eventually ends up in Jackson Creek. The Preserve then has the job of filtering the sediment through the wetlands lowering the amount of nutrients making their way to Delavan Lake. The health of this system in the Jackson Creek preserve is crucial to the water quality of Delavan Lake. The DLIA is committed to advocating for best management practices throughout our watershed that support the maintenance of this sensitive system.
To learn more about this area and how you can support the Delavan Lake Improvement Association visit www.delavan-lake.org. A copy of the Jackson Creek Protection Plan can be found on our website.
Respectfully submitted by:
Mary Pat O’Connor, President
Delavan Lake Improvement Association