Employees Work to Protect Native Trees and Grasses in Wisconsin
Kent Roberts has a very personal connection to preserving a 5-acre parcel of oak trees and other vegetation in Mineral Point, Wis. where the Community Involvement Team at Cummins Emission Solutions has been working for the past three years.
The park-like area, known as an oak savanna, is named for his former teacher who started the preservation effort.
“My former teacher Don Hawkins, who the site is named after, taught us many years ago that ‘many hands make light work,’” said Roberts, Cummins’ Facilities Manager at Mineral Point. “I think this phrase says it all, as this is what a Cummins Community Involvement Team does best – work together as a team to make the communities in which we live and work a better place to live.”
In 2009, Mineral Point employees embarked on a five-year project to restore the local oak savanna as part of the Company’s first 90th Anniversary Environmental Challenge, a competition among Community Involvement Teams across the Company to be judged one of the top projects with an environmental theme.
An oak savanna, though difficult to define, refers to plant communities with ‘open-grown’ oaks that were historically part of larger areas of vegetation bordering prairies in Western North America.
The property is behind a local elementary school, making it a potentially ideal spot to teach students about the importance of protecting local flora and trees.
“This project was exciting and challenging from the start as our Cummins team was tasked with cleaning up this 5-acre parcel by solving erosion problems, removing invasive weeds, brush, limbs and dead trees as well as designing and creating a walking path around the entire property,” Roberts said. “We partnered with a wide variety of community businesses as well as classes from the local school to accomplish many tasks.”
To prevent erosion, employees worked to divert water that comes onto the site by using rip rap, or large rocks, to slow-down the flow. With erosion at bay, they then began repopulating local flora in addition to restoring and protecting the 200-year-old oak trees on the property.
To share this revamped environment with students and the community, Cummins Emission Solutions employees also wound an 1,800 foot-long walk-path through the property. Picnic tables were added throughout the oak savanna for visitors to sit at and enjoy the local greenery.
During the next stage of preservation, employees along with local businesses and community volunteers will place a kiosk on the grounds, as well as numerous plaques to tell the story of the renovation and to educate visitors on the importance of the native grasses and trees to the ecology of Wisconsin.
The kiosk will also pay tribute to Hawkins, a retired technical education teacher from the local school district – the man behind the project’s conception.
Mineral Point has partnered with area schools to ensure that this project will continue to move forward once Cummins Emission Solutions’ five-year commitment is completed. The schools can use the land and restoration sites as a teaching tool, helping youth in the community understand the importance of maintaining local forestry, and respecting area historical oaks.
While oak savannas in Wisconsin are endangered, the more than 330 employees at Cummins Emission Solutions are working to ensure this parcel will continue on for years to come.