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State of Wisconsin Issues PFAS Warnings for Dane County Fisheries

by Makaya Rodriguez, age 17

PFAS, also known as (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), are man-made chemicals. They were used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and as firefighting foam. PFAS are made to be stain and water-resistant. These PFAS chemicals are being found in many Wisconsin bodies of water, specifically in Dane County.

Anglers are being advised to watch out for certain fish in lakes and rivers around Madison waters, such as Starkweather Creek, Lake Monona, Wingra Creek, Lake Waubesa, and Rock River. In these particular areas, officials have found levels of PFAS, and recommend not consuming walleye, largemouth bass, crappie, and northern pike more than once a month. Additionally, the consumption of fish such as yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, and bluegills is not advised more than once a week. Taking these precautions into consideration will help avoid the accumulation of PFAS in the human body. Black Earth Creek has seen especially high numbers of PFAS in brown trout. This raises concerns as the creek flows northwesterly, from Middleton into the Wisconsin River.

The accumulation of PFAS in fish tissue is not uncommon and human consumption of these fish subsequently leads to future health issues. Some health concerns include but are not limited to low birth weights, harm to the reproductive system, altered hormone, and thyroid regulations, and kidney and testicular cancer. The state Department of Natural Resources admonishes fishermen and consumers to be careful of eating fish from these contaminated bodies of water. [Read More]

UW Field House, a Madison Landmark

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 14

The UW Field House is a landmark building initially built in 1930. It serves as the home to the UW volleyball and wrestling teams. Other UW teams are included as a part of the Field House family, such as the basketball, boxing, and track and field teams.

On April 3, 1970, the Badgers first hosted a National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff series game with the Milwaukee Bucks against the Philadelphia 76ers. The game had a sold-out crowd with the tickets costing under ten dollars. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a stellar night at the Field House, scoring 46 points against the 76ers.

In 1986, the Field House became the permanent home of the UW volleyball and UW wrestling teams. The UW basketball team moved to the Kohl Center in 1998, making it the permanent home of the basketball team. The Field House has had many improvements in the past 20 years including brand-new media facilities, visiting teams’ locker rooms, and wood flooring. [Read More]

Where Is the Sugar River?

by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 13

The Sugar River runs throughout southern Wisconsin and ultimately feeds into the Rock River in Illinois. The start of its main branch is located in Mount Horeb in Dane County, close to Madison, Fitchburg, and Verona.

One of the Sugar River’s biggest feeder streams is Badger Mill Creek. The creek also begins in Madison and runs through Verona and Fitchburg. It finally reaches, and merges with, the Sugar River near Highway 151.

The Sugar River’s other note-worthy tributaries are the West Branch of the Sugar River and Mount Vernon Creek, which help make up the Upper Sugar River Watershed. The Upper Sugar River Watershed encompasses the section of the Sugar River that lies upstream of Bellville, Wisconsin. The whole watershed reaches across about 500,000 acres, or 760 square miles, of southern Wisconsin and the northern part of Illinois. [Read More]

Dane County Students Gather to Discuss Climate Change at Second Annual Conference

by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

For the second year in row, students from around Dane County will gather to address climate change issues. The second annual Dane County high school climate action conference will take place at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday, November 12.

The title for this year’s event is Gen Z: Meeting the challenge of Our Changing Environment. Local student members of the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee are helping plan the conference. A range of speakers and climate experts will make presentations and address topics of particular interest to young people.

“I learned a lot at last year’s conference” said Devika Pal, a student at Madison’s Memorial High School. “Now, I want to know more. I’m interested in learning what actions we can take to make a difference.” [Read More]

New Transfer Options Available for Wisconsin Nursing Students

by Melanie Bautista, age 16

Madison Area Technical College (MATC) and the University of Wisconsin - Madison have come to an agreement to let transfer students from MATC with earned associates in nursing to earn a bachelor's degree at UW-Madison.

The program BSN @Home was created in 1996 to address shortage of bachelor-degree nurses. According to David Wahlberg at the Wisconsin State Journal, “Wisconsin could face a shortage of about 11,000 nurses by the year 2030.” The agreement between both colleges will allow a smoother transition into online courses for the nursing program and for current nurses who want to pursue a higher position in the medical field. With COVID-19 occurring, nursing jobs have been in high demand; 10 percent of nursing positions have become unoccupied.

The highest role in healthcare, nursing assistant, has a vacancy of 17.2 percent, higher than previous years. Turina Bakken, a provost of MATC, says, “ This new nursing agreement adds to that legacy as we work together to meet the critical nursing demand in our communities and create meaningful career options for our collective students.” This makes the nursing pathway much smoother. [Read More]

Land Purchase in Western Dane County Provides Public Access to Morton Forest

by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

A generous gift from a private landowner made 22 years ago is prompting new conservation action in Dane County.

In 1999, 120 acres of Morton Forest were deeded to Dane County by Steve Morton, a retired chemist, and environmentalist. The land is about 2.5 miles south of the Town of Mazomanie. To create better access to Morton Forest, Dane County now plans to purchase 65 acres of land in the Village of Black Earth.

Similar to Morton Forest, this new piece of land in Black Earth has amazing vistas, as well as small farmlands, a stone quarry, and rock outcroppings. [Read More]

When Exploring Dane County’s Sugar River, Keep and Eye Out for Invasive Species

by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 14

The Sugar River, also known as The Upper Sugar River Watershed, is located in Dane County and flows all the way down to the Rock River.

The Upper Sugar River Watershed Association works to protect the river from invasive species that can harm or push out native species and damage the ecosystem. Many rare and endangered native plants found in the river and its nearby wetlands are threatened. Most wetland animals depend on these native plants for food and shelter.

Some native species can disappear if a watershed loses its healthy wetlands. Recreational uses of wetlands include trapping, fishing, bird watching, and nature study. Healthy wetlands can help with keeping the water clean and safe for wildlife. Healthy wetlands also help control and prevent floods. [Read More]

Land Purchase Creates New Ice Age Trail Park

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

One of only eleven National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail highlights unique beauty seen on a thousand-mile footpath in Wisconsin. The trail stretches from St. Croix Falls in Polk County to Sturgeon Bay in Door County and travels through 30 counties, including the County of Dane. That is where the county and both the Cities of Madison and Verona have proposed to pay $2.7 million for land that would fulfill connections missing in the trail.

This parcel is about 40 acres and is located west of Madison in a quickly-growing area that is covered by a forest containing mature oak. It is “a wonderful example of glacial geology,” according to the Director of Land Conservation for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, Kevin Thusius.

“The glacier ended right here and it left behind glacial till—a lot of rock and debris that created a nice hill,” he said. This parcel of land includes examples of landscape features like kettle ponds—where a piece of ice was left after the glacier melted away. A study completed in 2019 said the trail is used by about 2.3 million people each year, a number that has certainly “increased significantly since,” according to Thusius. [Read More]

Martin Luther King, Jr “I Have a Dream”
Event Supports Local Scholarships

by Josepha Da Costa, age 16

The annual “I Have a Dream” Ball is scheduled for January 15, 2022. This year’s event will again take place virtually. As always, the I Have Dream Ball will raise money to fund scholarships for local high school seniors and college students. And, as always, this cherished Madison tradition is organized and sponsored by the dedicated volunteers of Women in Focus.

My name is Josepha Da Costa and I am a junior at La Follette High School. I am also a teen editor at Simpson Street Free Press. I have attended the Women in Focus Ball with my Simpson Street colleagues several times over the years going back to when I was in 6th grade. [Read More]

Two-year-old Red Panda Finds New Home at Vilas Zoo — by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

There is a new red panda that has come to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. His name is Bandit and he is a very active two-year-old. After two months of processing, Bandit arrived at the zoo from Ohio in early June. He had to undergo a few health checks and quarantine before he was allowed to be introduced to the public. [Read More]

$2 Million Project Adds 22 Acres to Whitetail Ridge Park — by Sol Saray, age 10

Have you heard about the $2 million project in place to expand the parks on Madison's Northside? [Read More]

How Madison Became Wisconsin’s Capital City — by Jason Medina Ruiz, age 11

Madison was founded in 1836 and became Wisconsin’s state capital in 1838. Wisconsin was introduced as a state in 1848, the same year the campus of the University of Wisconsin was established in Madison. The downtown area of Madison was created on an isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. The city was also named after James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. Madison resides on Ho-Chunk land, and they call it Taychopera or Dejope. This translates to “land of four lakes” in the Ho-Chunk language. [Read More]

Dane County Pursues Sustainability with New Solar Projects — by Yani Thoronka, age 16

In November of 2020, County Executive Joe Parisi announced new efforts regarding conservation and sustainability. The goal is for Dane County-owned facilities to run solely on renewable energy. In his proposal, Parisi spoke of converting about 90 acres of county land near Femrite Road, in Cottage Grove into a solar farm. This new solar farm is almost double the size of a solar field at the Dane County Regional Airport that opened two years ago. [Read More]

Don't Be Afraid of Every Coyote You See — by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 14

Have you ever seen a coyote in a Madison park? Well you're in luck because it might not be real! These coyotes are made out of plastic and faux fur; they are also a new addition to the Canadian goose management program. [Read More]

Play Ball! New Youth Baseball League Launches in Madison — by Josepha Da Costa, age 17

On a sunny Saturday in early July, several Simpson Street reporters headed to Elver Park to watch a baseball game. It wasn’t just any game though; it was a little league game played by kids from all over Madison, including one of our own staff writers, Max Moreno! [Read More]

New Wisconsin River Bridge Will Improve Local Recreation — by Camila Cruz, age 14

In 2022, construction on a $4 million recreation-only bridge, connecting Dane County and Sauk City will begin. This bridge will go over the Wisconsin River, creating a beautiful sight. This bridge will replace a 100-year-old Sauk City rail bridge. The old bridge was taken down in 2018, because of its little use and problems with spring flooding. [Read More]