Three miles west of Spring Valley, Wisconsin, visitors find a small, shady parking lot with an inviting entrance into the woods that form the Lee Kay Family Educational Forest.

“It is a nice nature trail through a 40-acre wooded parcel,” said Travis Campbell, assistant superintendent with the Pierce County Parks Department.

With community education as a major goal of the venue, park staff members have placed “identification markers out on the trail,” Campbell said. “They give information about the different types of trees along the trail.”

Signs along the trail help visitors identify the types of trees they are seeing. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Signs along the trail help visitors identify the types of trees they are seeing. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

Each marker identifies the name of the tree and features an outline of a leaf from that tree. It also explains the type of soil and environment that best suits the tree and the situations that cause the tree to thrive.

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Several of the markers contain information about the types of birds and animals that use the tree as a food source or home.

Other information provided about each type of tree includes things such as the color and texture of the wood the tree produces, as well as what things that wood can be used for such as baskets, fence posts, furniture, cabinets, housing frames, and a long list of other possible products.

Sunbeams streaming through the treetops highlight leaves on Sept. 7, 2018.  Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Sunbeams streaming through the treetops highlight leaves on Sept. 7, 2018. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

The rustic trail can be muddy in places. “We are hoping to put in a boardwalk soon,” Campbell explained. “We would like to put it in the wet areas and through a decent portion of the trail.”

The trail is six-tenths of a mile long and is flat, making it suitable for walkers of all ages. Dogs are welcome but must be on a leash.

Public access to the Lee Kay Family Educational Forest is possible because of the generous donation made by John and Mary Heilser of Fond du Lac, Wis. Mary Heilser’s family had owned the land for over 100 years, using it as a source of fuel wood, fence posts, lumber, and maple syrup.

The nature trail is open year-round and is often used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, although Campbell noted that the Pierce County Recreation Department does not plow the parking lot in winter. However, Campbell said other organizations have plowed the lot in some winters.

Many species of trees are featured in the Lee Kay forest which is managed by the Pierce County Parks Department.  Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Many species of trees are featured in the Lee Kay forest which is managed by the Pierce County Parks Department. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

If you go ...

  • Name: Lee Kay Family Educational Forest
  • Address: N8072 410th St., Spring Valley, Wis.
  • Phone: 715-639-5611
  • Website: www.co.pierce.wi.us/Parks/Lee-Kay%20Forest/Lee_Kay%20_Family.html
  • Email: nlcp@centurytel.net
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Admission: Free