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Dane County Land & Water Resources Department

Dane County Parks Restoring Rare Oak Savanna Habitat at Indian Lake County Park

June 23, 2020
Darren Marsh, Dane County Parks Director, (608) 224-3766
Land & Water Resources



Contact: Darren Marsh, Dane County Parks Director

(608) 224-3766;


Dane County Parks Restoring Rare Oak Savanna Habitat at Indian Lake County Park

MADISON, WI – June 23, 2020 – Dane County Parks staff and the Friends of Indian Lake County Park have worked for several years at Indian Lake County Park to restore rare oak savanna habitat that once dominated the area. A project is currently underway to restore another 17-acre section of this unique habitat.

Oak savanna was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Upper Midwest but today is highly endangered with only a fraction of one percent remaining. Intact oak savannas are now one of the rarest natural communities on earth. Savannas are characterized by scattered oak trees covering 10% to 50% of the site and an understory of prairie mixed with shade tolerant plants. Indian Lake County Park is a great example of how degraded oak savannas can be restored. Staff and volunteers have worked for many years to restore habitat at Indian Lake County Park. To date, approximately 20 acres of prairie and 6 acres of oak woodland have been restored at the park. Another 4 acres of savanna restoration is already underway.

This summer, staff were presented with a unique opportunity to contract with an outside company that will work in the park from June 25th to July 15th on a 17-acre section of the park, removing invasive black locust trees and other trees that are not part of the oak savanna ecosystem. The county has contracted with Valton Log and Lumber for this project, which will allow a much larger area of the park to be restored than by working with staff and volunteers alone. The project area contains pockets of remnant prairie that are currently being choked out by invasive brush. Restoring the savanna will save these remnants from being lost and allow them to grow and flourish.

“This work being done by our Parks staff and volunteers will provide amazing experiences not only for all of us today, but for generations to come,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Park visitors will notice informational boards out at the park letting them know about the restoration work that is occurring. Some trails may need to be temporarily rerouted to provide access for equipment. Dane County Parks asks that visitors pay attention and comply with signage for their safety while at the park.

Once the Black Locust and other trees are removed, staff and volunteers will continue to combat and suppress invasive species and introduce native species that are part of the oak savanna habitat. Fire is a critical element in maintaining savanna ecosystems so controlled burns will also be used to manage this area.

Financial donations to help with this and other restoration projects in Dane County Parks can be made online at: If you are interested in volunteering to help with restoration or other park projects, you can learn more online at:


About Dane County Parks

Dane County Parks offers a variety of recreational opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast and natural environments for quiet getaways or special events.  Dane County Parks takes an active role to enhance and preserve the county’s finest natural resources.