1000 Islands Environmental Center
1000 Islands Conservancy Zone was established in 1969, by the Common Council of the City of Kaukauna. The purpose of this Conservancy Zone is to preserve the land in a natural state for the benefit of all citizens, with the idea of teaching good conservation practices and preservation of natural resources. The Conservancy Zone now encompasses 350 acres.
In 1976 the initial building was dedicated as a Bicentennial remembrance established by the City. Building was added to in stages up through 2001.
Our Naturalist, Debbie Nowak, joined us in 2008.
The Environmental Center is administered by the 1000 Islands Environmental Center Committee – consists of 9 Kaukauna citizens appointed by the Mayor and Common Council.
The Center is staffed by a Naturalist and a Business Coordinator. They are aided by many volunteers. The volunteers work over 3,500 hours per year. The core of the volunteer group comes from the Friends of the 1000 Islands, a support group whose primary goal is to provide assistance and funding for special projects and items necessary for the efficient operation of the Center. Being a Friend makes you a part of the Center’s efforts to preserve this part of our natural heritage.
Original funding was through donations from private citizens, businesses, organizations and the City of Kaukauna.
The Center is now funded through the Kaukauna School District, the City of Kaukauna and Outagamie County. Also, much support comes from the Friends of the Center, private donors and local industry. All building additions were funded through donations from both public and private sector through fund drives, grants, bequests, and memorials. The Endowment program was started in 1983 with a bequest of $25,000 from former teacher Evelyn Handran.
Other donations include bread for birds, corn, birdseed and all kinds of food for animals and birds. Donations of furniture and fixtures help complete finishing of rooms and buildings. Donations of materials, trees and plants to renew tree areas, wild flowers, etc. are ongoing and appreciated. Donations of labor for building, maintenance and general upkeep and control of buildings and property is always welcome .
Major mounted animal collections are donations of the family of Joe Van Daalwyk – North American and Asian/African mounts including many full mounts of species. Other collections that have been added to our collection are donations of Asian/African and North American mounts from John Barlow and Bob Juneau. Collections are housed in the two last major building additions. All displays are of museum quality. Also, displays of arrowhead collections found along the Fox River.
Live bird displays includes our talking parrot Jabber. In addition we display live animals and fish, a tarantula, turtles, and snakes.
The conservancy zone now has 7.2 miles of trails. One mile of trail along the river. It also has 2000 feet of barrier free boardwalk. The hiking trails along the river have benches with wonderful views to enjoy as you rest and relax. Cross country ski trails are in the upper woods of the conservancy and provide recreation for hundreds of skiers each winter. While walking, you may see eagles, deer and a great variety of waterfowl and many birds of all kinds.
The number of visitors at the Center have gone from less than 10,000 in 1978 to more than 60,000 visitors each year presently. 18,000 school children make this their field trip each year. Programs for school groups led by our Naturalist includes making maple syrup, a paper making program, Earth Week activities, spring wildflower hikes, birding hikes, eagle viewing, and fall hikes in lower and upper woods. Scouts, senior citizen groups and the general public can enjoy any of these programs and more. Our Canoe Launch aids canoeing along the lower Fox.
Summer programs are organized for children of all ages, hikes, picnics, and birdhouse building, fishing, crawfish and critter hunts, fishing contest with trophies and a luncheon banquet. Hunter safety courses are run twice a year. Winter snow offers snowshoeing for all ages.
The Friends of the 1000 Islands sponsor an Art Fair each May and many other fund raising programs to aid the programs at the Center.
We always have something new at 1000 Islands, and we're always interested in your suggestions!