Understanding the Natural and Cultural Significance of Powers Bluff: Implications for Park Interpretation and Design
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Rising up from the surrounding farmland, Powers Bluff is the highest point in Wood County. Its isolation and solitude appeals the nature observer. Add snow to its steep slopes and it lures winter sports enthusiasts. Its prolific spring wildflowers bring many visitors, and the bright fall colors of its hardwoods attract sightseers. The park is used in all the seasons, often visited by the same persons at different times. Most of the visitors are area residents, but the park and its attributes are well known outside the county. Seventy acres of the park is a State Natural Area, with geologic and vegetative resources of state significance. Elsewhere in the park are several notable cultural features, from an Indian settlement. Two cemeteries and two dance rings are the only visible remnants of a Wisconsin Indian culture that occupied Powers Bluff until the 1920's. Because so little has been written about the history of the Bluff and the surrounding area, this study gathered data through historical research and through interviews with longtime local residents. The interviews are contained in Appendix A and contain many wonderful stories about the Bluff. The interviewees revealed what the Bluff means to them and their feelings about it. This study provides a basis for assessing the importance of the natural and cultural features at the Bluff. It also analyzes the activities that take place within the park, and the relationships between the activities and the natural and cultural resources. Certain activities are in conflict with another, or with the resources. This study proposes changes for Powers Bluff Park, which would minimize the conflicts and would improve the park experience for all users. This study offers suggestions for interpretation, providing the groundwork for an interpretive plan for the park. The text of the present interpretive signs was written in the 1950's and this study provides recommendations for updating the signs. Also, the park presents a rich environment for educational use by area schools. Teacher guides and improved interpretation could increase usage and promote awareness of the park and its resources to area residents. Recommendations for the re-design of the park are based on a conviction that the landscape of Powers Bluff is special and unique, and needs to be protected and used with care.