At the nexus of Fitchburg, Madison and Monona is Capital Springs State Recreation Area, operated and managed by Dane County Parks and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Friends of Capital Springs Recreation Area.
This nearly 2,500-acre area features several parks, trails, marshland, woodland, prairies, springs, creeks, lakes and other points of interest stretching from Verona Road east to Hwy. 51 mostly south of the Beltline. Among them are the Capital City State Trail, Lewis Nine Springs E-Way, Lussier Family Heritage Center, the new Lower Yahara River Trail and the recently renamed William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park in honor of William (Bill) G. Lunney’s conservation legacy.
Lunney, 77, retired in 2019 after more than 50 years of service in county government, including 30 years as Parks Commission Chair. He and his wife, Judie Pfeifer, were celebrated for their contributions to Dane County Parks during a Foundation for Dane County Parks fundraising event Sept. 18. The couple received a Wisconsin Legislative Citation and flag, Governor Tony Evers’ Certificate of Commendation and a sign dedication at the Lussier Family Heritage Center.
At the event, several state, county and nonprofit representatives described Lunney as a mentor, role model, leader and friend. They shared examples of how he builds relationships, listens to others and rallies people to join a cause, turning a vision into reality.
Descriptions, photographs and timelines of the couple’s work are displayed on a kiosk at the Lunney/Pfeifer Shelter Area No. 2 at the park bearing Lunney’s name. Signs recount, for example, how Lunney helped save Dunn’s Marsh in Fitchburg from development, which in turn spurred the creation for the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and his speech at the first Earth Day in 1970. His leadership has also helped grow the Dane County Parks from 3,500 acres to over 15,000 acres.
“What I think is the most important part is inspiring other people to become deeply involved in natural resource conservation,” Lunney told the Star.
“And to show it doesn’t happen unless people make it happen,” Pfeifer added.
The couple launched a Healthy Parks Tour and co-founded the Friends of Capital Springs Recreation Area and the Foundation for Dane County Parks, which has raised nearly $600,000 in five years to support the county parks system. Lunney serves as chair of the nonprofit, which distributed the first round of the Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment grants last month to 11 conservation nonprofits, many of which are Dane County Parks Friends groups.
“We are ecstatic to be able to use the endowment built by our generous donors to provide grants to improve the parks and help build the (Dane) County Parks over 3,000-person volunteer base,” Lunney said in a county news release.