ORFORDVILLE—Parkview School District Administrator Steve Lutzke described an “overwhelming” feeling of gratitude about two local residents’ decision to donate a large plot of land to the district.
Area residents Norman and Carol Aulabaugh have donated 75 acres of land to the district to be restored as a prairie grassland and hardwoods preserve.
A conservation easement, held by the Groundswell Conservancy in Madison, has been placed on the property to assure it will remain a prairie conservation preserve forever, district officials said.
“We’re appreciative of their generosity and helping us to further our education here at Parkview,” Lutzke said. “It was certainly a cause for celebration for our district to consider us for this donation. The land will be a big asset to our district for our students to use for a variety of different learning purposes.”
Lutzke said the Aulabaughs also included an endowment, which will help fund maintenance of the property for years to come.
Aulabaugh said he and his wife were happy to help the school district. They had purchased the land about 20 years ago with the goal of preserving it.
Because the Aulabaughs do not have children of their own, Norman said they wanted to donate the land to a good cause.
“It has a great view of the Spring Valley township,” Aulabaugh said. “We thought an outdoor laboratory for the Parkview School District would be a good use for it well into the future, so that’s what we did.”
The donated property contains 10 acres of woods, and the rest is cropland. About 42 acres of the cropland has already been planted into a prairie cover.
The restoration process, which involves removing shrubs and replanting grass, began two years ago and is expected to be completed in 2022. The Aulabaughs partnered with the Green-Rock Audubon Society in 2018 to begin the restoration.
Lutzke said the school district intends to use the property as an outdoor laboratory for science courses like biology or ecology and also for arts, physical education and some recreational activities like hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and cross country running.
The property is located roughly a mile away from the school district’s primary facilities.
Luztke added the district plans to build a pavilion and visitors area for community events, along with bathrooms and benches. It’s possible the district could host astronomy nights or wildlife counting activities in the future.
“We plan to use it extensively for our students,” Lutzke said. “We want to be good stewards of the donation and use it to its fullest potential.”
Aulabaugh said he used to work for the Parker Pen Company in Janesville, and later SSI Technologies. His wife previously taught in the Janesville School District. Both are retired now.
Growing up in the Chicago area, Aulabaugh said he enjoyed visiting forest preserves, and that interest in nature carried over into his adult life.
“We were always kind of impressed with the outdoor laboratory that the Janesville School District has, so we thought the Parkview district might like their own outdoor laboratory,” Aulabaugh said.
Aulabaugh said he has been doing lots of restoration work at the Sunny Peace Prairie in Rock County, putting in about 80 to 100 hours every year between mowing grass, trimming trees and dealing with invasive species.
Aulabaugh said he and his wife are also contracted with Tallgrass Restoration in Milton to assist with restoration work that requires expertise and equipment that they don't own.
“We’re real happy to partner with Parkview on this. We hope this will be a real asset and Parkview can use this to enhance their curriculum,” Aulabaugh said.