The mission of the Friends of the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum (FOGPA), a non-profit organization, is to manage, preserve, and promote the restored prairie and representative plant communities for education, wildlife habitat, and public enjoyment.
Restored with seeds collected from plants found in the last original prairie remnants in Fond du Lac County, the over 50-acre prairie located adjacent to the UW-Oshkosh, Fond du Lac campus, serves as a living snapshot of the wildlife and colorful landscape that was once common to this region. Adding a nearly 5.5 acre formal arboretum representing eight types of Wisconsin forest communities, the Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum (GPA) provides a unique opportunity for education and the enjoyment of our natural heritage.
The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum was developed as a collaboration between volunteers, UW-Fond du Lac (now known as UW-Oshkosh, Fond du Lac campus), and Fond du Lac County, the land owner. The project began in 1991 when Connie Ramthun (local prairie restoration consultant) and a group of students and staff at UW-Fond du Lac approached Dean Bradley Gottfried with an idea to establish a prairie on campus. The majority of the land surrounding the campus was open lawn which provided no ecological benefit and was costly to mow and maintain. With the help of Bill Volkert, a naturalist with the Department of Natural Resources in Horicon, and the UW-Madison landscape architecture program, a plan was prepared and in 1993 the first 20 acres of native prairie grasses and wildflowers were planted by volunteers. Since then the prairie has grown to include additional acres with over 75 species of wildflowers and grasses plus several species of sedges that came back on their own; a formal arboretum; interpretive hiking trails; a bike path; a shelter with an informative kiosk; two native wildflower display gardens; and a wildlife pond. All projects have been funded with private donations and grants.
The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum project provides the largest green space in Fond du Lac. It is a beautiful addition to the Fond du Lac County park system. Plus, the Friends of Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum provide free environmental education classes for the public and hosts an annual Prairie Fest, held the first Saturday in August. Prairie Fest is a free family event with activities for all ages, prairie tours, yoga, and educational programs.