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New Group Seeks To Preserve, Protect La Crosse Marsh

Frost Says Land Isn't Facing Any Immediate Development Threats

Above, the La Crosse River marsh. Photo: Vicky Somma (CC-BY-NC-SA)

A newly formed group in La Crosse wants to see greater protections for the La Crosse River marsh, a wetland with a history that involves constant talks of development.

La Crosse’s marsh is located in the heart of the city and is home to migrating birds — like warblers and sandhill cranes — as well as red foxes, otters and frogs. Its recreational trails are popular with runners and bikers. The marsh also helps with flood control.

But there are still many commuters who drive through the marsh on a daily basis who don’t understand its purpose.

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Richard Frost, one of the founding board members of a new group, Friends of the Marsh, said he wants to help change that mindset through education.

“Historically, the marsh has been seen as a barrier, as a wasteland,” he said.

Frost’s organization spawned from a now-defunct marsh coalition. That coalition in 1998, along with city voters, defeated a plan to build a road through the marsh.

Frost said the marsh isn’t facing any immediate development threats, but the group wants to make sure the marsh remains in its natural state.

“The marsh is not protected. It’s owned by the city. Its existence is completely dependent on the whims of the city, the mayor and the city council,” he said. “Right now, they’re of the mind of preservation, but that could change with the next election, and that marsh could be developed. A new north-south corridor could be built. It’s very, very fragile.”

Frost said that one idea is to transfer the land to the state Department of Natural Resources, but he said there are concerns about how different administrations could politicize the land. He said the group will explore other avenues of protection.