Legacy Grant Recipient: Mequon Nature Preserve

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Not-a-Wheelchair Program at MNP

A member of the Pace Adult Day Program (Pace) enjoying traversing the trails in the Not-a-Wheelchair. This program is offered by Balance, Inc., a nonprofit based in Grafton, WI that specializes in enhancing the lives of adults and children with intellectual & developmental abilities through housing, programming, & support.

Mequon Nature Preserve (MNP) exists to instill environmental empathy and action into the consciousness of surrounding communities. We are proud that this non-profit was able to benefit from a 2023 Legacy Grant from the Wispact Foundation to help strengthen their ability to achieve their vision.

Most of the land that Mequon Nature Preserve calls home was cleared about 180 years ago for large scale agriculture, and we’re in the process of returning it back to its historic conditions. We’re in the midst of restoring 510 acres back to a mosaic of forests, wetlands and prairies here in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Cory Gritzmacher, Director of Land Restoration & Operations.

The Preserve includes over 5 miles of hiking trails, a 40-foot observation tower and is open to the public 365 days a year from sunup to sundown. Access is provided at no charge and there are no required trail passes.

“Wispact viewed this as a partnership and it was cool to be on the same page. This has been a collaboration to help us increase our accessibility…” — Esha Pillai, Development and Strategy Manager, MNP

Because accessibility is a priority, MNP is free of charge, including for the 5,000 children that take part in environmental educational activities every year. For these children who go to financially limited schools in Milwaukee County, MNP even pays for the roundtrip bus transportation.

“One of our goals is to increase accessibility across everything we do, including access to the land. We had a couple manually powered wheelchairs that worked occasionally, but there was just a growing need and growing interest for other options to increase our accessibility,” said Esha Pillai, Development and Strategy Manager.

The Legacy Grant from Wispact provided the necessary funds for this new option: Not a Wheelchair, a motorized off-road battery-operated vehicle that can navigate all of the trails. People who were previously unable to utilize the trails can rent this vehicle for free to access virtually the entire preserve.

“The Wispact grant has opened up the doors for more accessibility to all our 510 acres comfortably and safely. This continues to increase accessibility across all our events so everyone has opportunities to get out on the land,” Gritzmacher added.

When asked how it was to work with Wispact to secure the grant, Pillai responded, “It’s been great. Wispact viewed this as a partnership, and it was cool to be on the same page. This has been a collaboration to help us increase our accessibility, and then also potentially see other areas where we can help each other out to really benefit the community.”

To help support MNP, individuals or corporate groups can volunteer or make any donation big or small, which would be well-received and well-appreciated. Support will allow them to continue to increase accessibility and keep things free so there’s not a financial barrier to folks enjoying the land. They also whole-heartedly welcome anyone to come and just visit and enjoy the natural beauty of the great outdoors in Wisconsin.