After a brief break from the wilds of Wisconsin to visit friends (more like ‘chosen family’) in North Carolina, we went on another park-hopping adventure on Sunday, March 11th. The weather was good (in other words, not bitterly cold or too terribly windy) and we had no plans, so off we went!
We started our day in the village of Mount Pleasant (so, basically, Racine) at Sanders Park. Sort of. Sanders Park (aka Sanders County Park) is a Racine County Park, but within the park is Sander’s Park Hardwoods*, which is a designated State Natural Area. However, the natural area is owned and run by the county, not the Wisconsin DNR. So we were at a county-run state natural area contained within a county park. Get all that? No? Me neither. Let’s move on.
Sanders Park, dedicated in honor of a local biology teacher (Edwin Sanders), comprises about 80 acres along the edge of Mount Pleasant. Included in this space are the aforementioned state natural area and a state scientific area (which overlaps the natural area), as well as a small campground and several picnic areas.
The first thing we saw after we parked was a nice, open field. It looks pretty perfect if you’re looking to play catch or have a massive game of tag. It even has a bubbler to quench your thirst! (This is Wisconsin; it’s a bubbler.) Then we heard a strange noise coming from nearby, somewhere around the campground area, which my husband almost immediately identified as drone races. Sure enough, you could see movement through the trees as the drones whipped past one another. (Those things get some decent speed!) Rather than risk death by drone, we opted to head to the right to walk the trails.
Sander’s Park Hardwoods SNA is a beautiful example of old-growth forest in this part of the state. The park’s most notable tree is no longer standing but its impressive size is commemorated with a concrete outline and a sign:
SITE OF THE LANDMARK TREE
The concrete here is a mold of the base of this giant cottonwood – the largest and oldest in this part of Wisconsin. The seed from which it came burst about 1666. Its death occurred about 1930, and several years later its top was cut off leaving a stump 46 feet high. The stump deteriorated rapidly & was finally burned out about 1947. The tree grew to be 176 feet high & lived to be 264 years old. Two feet above the ground its base had a circumference of 23 feet [illegible] of over 7 feet.
As we walked along, we determined a few things about this park. First, it’s a great place for families and/or gatherings; if you’re at one of the six picnic areas, you’re never very far from a playground or swing set (one of which is a single swing, but that still counts, right?). Another is that if you look carefully, you’ll see some really interesting things around you. Like a face carved into the knot of a tree, or a tree that looks like it’s eating a piece of metal. These are just a few of the stranger things we saw, but I would encourage you to check it out for yourself.
If you do go:
- As a general rule, Racine County parks do not allow dogs. The exceptions to this rule are dog parks (duh), campgrounds (cool), and bike trails (huh?). Other things that are prohibited include damage to park property, alcohol (except beer, but even that is limited to campsites and picnic areas), firearms, solicitations, unnecessary noise or “breach of the peace,” glass containers, and littering.
- Similar to Milwaukee County, Racine County charges fees to use its picnic sites. Standard sites at Sanders Park (for 2018) cost $30-$35, though you can pay $90 to use the big shelter or $250 for “exclusive use” (so… I guess you get the park to yourself?). Racine County also has a “picnic season” which runs from the first weekend in May through the last weekend in September.
- There are 2 sets of pit toilets in the park: one near the main shelter and one near picnic areas 4 and 5. The campground area has its own facilities (“comfort station”) available, though I would wager they’re only open during camping season (the second weekend in April through the second weekend in October).
- If there’s not enough going on at Sanders Park for you, or if you’re just itching for more nature, head over to nearby Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha. It’s only about a 10-minute drive and offers things that Sanders doesn’t, like a dog park, a river, and even a biergarten. (Look for a future post for more info!)
At Sanders Park, Walk Slowly and Breathe Deeply (Mount Pleasant Patch)
WI Racine Sanders Park (Trailville)
Sander’s Park Hardwoods (Wisconsin DNR)
Sander’s Park Hardwoods, SNA #56 (State Natural Areas of Wisconsin)
Racine County Park Activities Fees and Policies (Racine County)