Interpretive/Nature Trails

Garman Nature Preserve wayfinding trail signage revealed

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WATERLOO — On Saturday, May 22, the Dr. J. S. Garman Nature Preserve’s new wayfinding trail signage officially was unveiled in Waterloo.

For the event, supporters gathered for a guided tour at the entrance to the Garman Preserve and encountered the first of 18 colorful art panels by Ho-Chunk artist Christopher Sweet. The delicate but powerful graphics advised visitors to “Take Care of This Special Place” and informed viewers that the Ho Chunk are the People of the Big Voice, the original people of this region.

The recently-completed installation of the wayfinding and cultural/natural interpretation project at Garman Nature Preserve is a culmination of two years’ work with a group of volunteers, the Ho-Chunk Tribe, and a design firm.

“It’s something we are all extremely proud of and hopefully will be enjoyed by everyone who sees it,” said Kevin Wiesmann, interim director of Jefferson County Parks.

The Parks Department worked with local volunteers and the 106 Group to develop this series of interpretive signs that guide visitors through the nature preserve and provide understanding of the preserve’s features including the 22 conical Indian mounds, glacial features, geology, and common plants and animals found in the preserve.

The new signage also indicates trail layouts and spots to locate yellow giant hyssop, (Agastache nepetoides), a plant species on the Wisconsin State Threatened list.

Hikers through the park might think they are in an art gallery as each of the wayfinding signs encountered presents another expressive and imaginative design.

“My mind is always trying to find the right path in a painting, so when I begin a process, there are sometimes a few ideas layered underneath the completed piece of work,” Sweet explained. “It can be a long journey but it is always a therapeutic experience.”

Sweet’s Ho-Chunk name is Huuc Co Blue Bear, and he attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.

The new Garman Nature Preserve interpretative and wayfinding trail signage only adds to the preserve’s natural beauty.

Mary Truman, Jefferson County Parks program assistant, expressed it best: “If you’re lost in the commotion of life, the Garman Nature Preserve is a peaceful, serene remedy. Come and get lost in the preserve. You’ll find yourself.”

Now with the addition of these wayfinding trail signage panels, the journey only gets better.

In 2003, this 40-acre wooded hillside, now the Dr. J. S. Garman Nature Preserve, was donated to Jefferson County by Mrs. Theo Garman in memory of her late husband, John.

Part of the county’s Park system, The Garman Nature Preserve is located at 701 Fox Lane in Waterloo. The Waterloo Regional Trailhead facility is located adjacent to the property.

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