Giving back: Diboll’s donation plugs prairie plantings at Baird Creek

Neil Diboll, photo by David GreerThe Baird Creek Preservation Foundation is asking for the public’s help in handling a unique donation from a company founded by a UW-Green Bay alumnus.

The donation comes about through the lifelong passion of Neil Diboll, UW-Green Bay Class of ’78, and it is perfectly in keeping with his alma mater’s, and his own, “green” roots.

Diboll’s company, Prairie Nursery, Inc., of Westfield, Wis., has donated 12,000 plants to help re-establish native plant communities in the Baird Creek greenway on Green Bay’s far east side, not far from campus.

Volunteers for the Preservation Foundation have planted about 6,000 plant plugs in a series of outings over the last month.

The fourth and largest planting — hence the public call for additional volunteers — is set to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, near the end of McKenzie Lane. The meeting site is a few blocks south of Humboldt Road and Baird Elementary School.

Volunteers that have them are encouraged to bring their own planting tools. A cordless drill with a one-inch flat, wood bit works well, organizers say, as would a small shovel or trowel.

Keith White Prairie, UW-Green Bay

Diboll (shown here in file photos) studied at UW-Green Bay during the height of its “Eco U” heyday, earning a degree in Environmental Sciences. He contributed to the early development of the University’s Cofrin Arboretum and its restored prairie, since renamed the Keith White Prairie in honor of a distinguished faculty member and Diboll’s mentor.

Diboll returned to the UW-Green Bay campus last December when he was invited to deliver the commencement address. He shared his personal story of founding Prairie Nursery during the economic lean times of the early 1980s, when natural landscaping was relatively unknown. He advised the graduating seniors that if they have passion and skills and a decent idea, they’d never regret taking a shot at being an entrepreneur.

Neil DibollToday, Prairie Nursery ships native seeds and plants nationwide from its headquarters in Westfield, in central Wisconsin. Magazine stories have billed the evangelistic Diboll — always touting the financial savings and aesthetic gains of natural landscaping — as the “Prairie Prophet.”

The firm founded by Diboll designs and installs attractive, eco-friendly landscapes throughout the Midwest and Northeast United States. Among its high-profile clients are the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits golf courses near Kohler, Alliant Energy headquarters in Madison and the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

Much the nursery’s business involves prairie wildflowers. The donation to the Baird Creek project is mostly native prairie grasses.

The Baird Creek Preservation Foundation is a non-profit organization whose stated mission is to assist the City of Green Bay in acquiring land in the Baird Creek Parkway and to help enhance the Parkway’s value as an ecological, recreational, and educational resource for Northeastern Wisconsin.