February 8, 2024 at 11:50 a.m.

What does Bloomfield Prairie mean to you?

Dear Editor, 

Looking for a place to hike, snowshoe (if we had snow!), picnic, fish, hunt, explore, and view native prairie plants? Hoping to see and listen to grassland birds like the upland sandpiper, meadowlarks and bobolinks? Iowa County currently offers a rare space to do all these things. Bloomfield Prairie, also known as the Iowa County Farm, is public land that has been restored from worn agricultural soil to beautiful tall grass prairie that stretches for hundreds of acres.  (Want to visit? Bloomfield Prairie is located about 5 miles west of Dodgeville, just off County CH.)

Iowa County is looking for ideas on what to do with this unique property when the current leases expire. To gather input, a strategic planning committee recently hosted listening sessions. We would like to thank the committee members for facilitating the discussion, and the Iowa County Board for asking for input. The openness to hearing the desires of county residents is to be commended. These conversations will guide the County’s plans for the future of the property. We’d like to give special thanks to Katie Abbott, Scott Godfrey, Paul Ohlrogge, Larry Bierke, Barry Hottman and Jake Tarrell, as well as all the Iowa County Board members who participated. 

The attendees voiced a resounding YES to keeping it in restored native prairie, and keeping it open to the public. The momentous task of creating and managing this prairie is thanks to the efforts of two local organizations. The Iowa County Recreation and Prairie Restoration group (ICRPR), started by Dave Ladd, began restoring the prairie in 1998. Today the group co-manages the space with the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. Together these groups pay $86,854 per year for the privilege of restoring and managing 420 acres of tall grass prairie. The public is encouraged to enjoy this land for free. 

Do we have a vested interest in the property? Yes, and we believe you should, too! We are members of ICRPR, but we’d be committed to preserving this incredible treasure even if we weren’t.  In a county of 763 square miles with very limited public natural space, protecting this 2/3 square mile of FREE public property is a small, but crucial, task.  

Please take a moment to fill out the County’s survey and share your thoughts. www.tinyurl.com/bloomfieldsurvey.

Thank you

Mary McKinley, Melissa Roelli, Jody Vanderloo, members of ICRPR. Dodgeville, WI