By Eric W. Fowle, AICP, Founding Co-Chair, Niagara Escarpment Resource Network
You’ve seen the scenic rock formations that make High Cliff State Park and other natural areas in Wisconsin special. But did you know that these rock ledges belong to a more than 1,000-mile-long international geologic feature that connects Eastern Wisconsin with the grandly iconic Niagara Falls? This is the Niagara Escarpment—also known as The Ledge—a globally unique feature that claims its beginnings in Wisconsin, forms a great arc into Canada, and connects us to fascinating history, culture, and ecology, thereby creating opportunities for tourism and learning. Over 400 million years in the making, it’s a landscape feature like no other.
The Niagara Escarpment Resource Network (NERN), a proud partner program of the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership (LNRP), began in 1998 with the mission to bring awareness and increased conservation efforts for Wisconsin’s Niagara Escarpment corridor. NERN was re-branded in 2019 with the WI Ledge moniker and organized to focus on five integrated initiatives:
1) Geotourism: The Niagara Escarpment’s distinct geology and exposed limestone cliff face influences the landscape surrounding it, thereby creating its own microcosm of natural splendor and ecological wonder. The WI Ledge Rambler Geotourism Program will promote a treasure trove of events and experiences for visitors and local residents along the seven counties of The Ledge. Funded in part by a $50,000 grant from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation, the staff person and program will boost local and regional economies by working in partnership with responsible businesses and organizations that promote community, culture, and the environment.
2) Tours: As residents and visitors make direct connections with the Escarpment’s presence, vistas, and defining features, they may develop a more powerful and richer sense of place. Our WI Ledge Tours offer captivating, one-of-a-kind excursions that combine outdoor activities with memorable educational and exploratory experiences and often include culinary experiences derived from the bounty of local agricultural producers.
3) Events: Special events help showcase The Ledge and its many rich facets, engaging the community by learning about its unique features and building a sense of connection with the Niagara Escarpment. Past sponsored events include local food and wine culinary experiences, and celebrations of art and film.
4) Conservation: The Ledge is a fragile natural resource and one deserving of attention and respect. NERN exists in part to share information on common planning, land development, management, and conservation/stewardship best practices among landowners, residents, and communities.
5) Learning: Our aim is to help both students and adults understand the Escarpment’s connections to the economy, ecology, and identity of the region through a variety of educational materials.
Photos submitted from Niagara Escarpment Resource Network (NERN)