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Special speakers and activities planned for Willow River State Park on Saturday

Prairie enthusiasts hike a trail in Willow River State Park. (Submitted photo)

The St. Croix Valley Bird Club and the Willow River Organization for Wildlife Learning have teamed to bring Dr. Stanley Temple, UW-Madison emeritus professor, to the Willow River State Park on Saturday, Aug. 23.

Dr. Temple will give a free talk at 1 p.m. in the Picnic Shelter. The subject is the iconic Passenger Pigeon, a species which once darkened the sky in the millions yet became extinct 100 years ago.

The talk is the culminating event in the free Prairie Day celebration of the St. Croix Valley Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day. The normal vehicle admission fee applies to the park, located on County Road A.

A prairie walk for adults begins at 9 a.m. A family prairie walk begins at 10 a.m. Both prairie walks start from the gravel lot near the Park Office and stay on easy terrain. Leaders of the walks will identify birds and plants of desirable species as well as invasive species.

A demonstration of buckthorn control methods begins at 9 a.m. and will be repeated at 10 a.m., both times near the Nature Center.

3M chemist Jack Rasmussen, the “Buckthorn King” will show ways to cut, pull, and poison the buckthorn which threatens to overwhelm other plants on public and private property in this area. Jack can provide samples of the recommended herbicide triclopyr for private use.

“The Prairie Enthusiasts are proud to host this second annual event,” said education chair Ginny Gaynor, Somerset. “Other chapters in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois also share with the public our love of native grasslands. Several conservation clubs in this region have joined to form the Grassland Action Partnership because of the critical links between native plants and animals.”

Starting at 11 a.m. at the Picnic Shelter, eight exhibitors will showcase games and information about wild plants and animals. The popular “Ducks on Sticks” will be available for close inspection. The Willow River OWLs will show snakes, turtles and hawks.

At noon Somerset Boy Scout Troop 144 will sell hot dogs, brats and drinks. More details are available at the TPE chapter’s website: