By Becky Hurley | February 20, 2017
Lakota has just completed a community engagement and master planning process for the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge, a spectacular 3,000-acre wetland and natural area about two hours southwest of Chicago. After almost a century as farmland, in 2001 The Wetlands Initiative turned off the pump and began to restore the Refuge to wetlands. The Refuge today is a jewel of American restoration ecology, recognized in 2012 as a “Wetlands of International Importance” under the Ramsar Treaty, an Audubon Important Bird Area, and the site of the Dore Seep, an Illinois nature preserve. The Wetlands Initiative asked The Lakota Group to engage the community in conversations about the Refuge and to create a master plan that would balance public access with the site’s core mission of biodiversity habitat. After careful deliberations with both the public and TWI, Lakota’s master plan identifies and brands three “gateways” to the Refuge with signage that welcomes visitors and helps them understand how they can learn about and enjoy the site without disturbing that delicate balance.