Our monthly Family Fun Hikes (for families with kids any age) and Short Hikes for Short Legs (children age 3-5 with a responsible adult) are going strong. In both, our naturalists offer hands-on activities in the Eagle Marsh barn on a different nature topic each time, followed by a guided hike geared to the ages of the children present. Watch for sessions on birds, pond life, insects, clouds/weather, butterflies, scat, and more.
The mature bald eagle pair that's been hanging around Eagle Marsh for the past two years has built a nest in a large tree on private land nearby and are incubating their eggs. Please don't trespass to disturb the young parents or they could abandon their young, a tragic result.
Sean Nolan has resigned as executive director of LRWP, effective June 1. "We thank Sean for his years of leadership of Little River Wetlands Project, and wish him the best as he moves forward in his career," said Larry Wiedman, chair of the board of directors.
The search for Nolan's successor will begin after the board of directors completes strategic planning that will allow it to determine staffing needs aligned with the future direction of the organization, said Wiedman. In the interim, two board members will manage LRWP, taking leaves of absence from the board. Joe Huguenard will serve as interim executive director and Renée Wright will be communications director.
Photos by Dick Cross
More than 1,000 area residents came out to celebrate local environmental work at LRWP's Earth Day Fort Wayne event on Sunday, April 21, at Eagle Marsh. Even with a chill wind blowing across the marsh, welcome spring sunshine helped warm the half-mile stretch of Engle Road, closed for the event for the first time.
Activities were plentiful: on the Nature Trail sponsored by Indiana Michigan Power, kids eagerly peered at microscopic critters they'd dipped out of wetland ponds, dissected owl pellets, and learned about salamanders, frogs and toads. In the Marketplace area, visitors shopped for native plants and fresh baked goods at the farmers' market and inspected environmentally friendly cars brought by sponsor GM/Fort Wayne.
OmniSource sponsored a 5K fundraising Walk, which sent participants out on one of the few Eagle Marsh trails that was still dry. (There was so much rain the week before the event that the planned Walk route had to be changed several times.) The Walk passed the Native Planting area sponsored by NIPSCO, where visitors helped plant more than 800 plugs of native grasses and wildflowers.
More than a dozen local environmental organizations staffed booths in the Aqua Activity tent, engaging passersby with demonstrations, freebies and displays. Meanwhile, visitors took in presentations on topics ranging from rain barrel building to frogs and toads of Eagle Marsh, kids got their faces painted, and food trucks served up Cajun cuisine and gourmet hot dogs.
"No sooner were we taking the tents down than we started thinking about next year's event," said Sean Nolan, LRWP executive director. "We're looking to continue to build Earth Day Fort Wayne as a showcase for local conservation work-and a way for area businesses to support those efforts."
LRWP’s annual meeting will be on Wednesday, June 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the new LRWP office, 7209 Engle Road, Suite 200. LRWP members who attend can meet board members, vote on those up for reelection and learn more about happenings at LRWP.
Up for reelection are: Barry Ellis, past treasurer and a member of the finance committee; Judy Nelsen, board secretary, member of the executive committee, and chair of the development committee; Tom Russell, a financial planner and member of the development and finance committees; and Dennis White, chair of the land conservation committee and a member of the stewardship committee.
Work will begin in late spring to create a colorful entrance to the north side of Eagle Marsh for Towpath Trail users. An informational kiosk will be added where the Towpath Trail enters Eagle Marsh and we'll remove invasive species, then plant native wildflowers along the boardwalk and north edge of the Trail.
The project is funded by a grant from the Community Grantmaking Fund, held at the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne. We expect to be complete by late summer or early fall.
It's not just about Asian carp anymore. After extensive study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recommended options to create what could eventually be a permanent separation of the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins at Eagle Marsh. The purpose is to prevent nuisance aquatic species present in either basin from moving to the other, where they could cause significant problems.
For example, species such as the VHS virus (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) now in the Great Lakes could threaten fish populations in the Wabash River if, in a severe flood event, waters from Junk Ditch backed up from the St Marys River into Eagle Marsh and mixed with waters from the Graham-McCulloch Ditch, which flows into the Wabash.
The final decision will be made by federal agencies with input from the Indiana DNR, probably early in 2014. It may involve reconstruction work at Eagle Marsh that will alter its hydrology-how much is unknown. While working to mitigate the effects of any changes, we will fully cooperate because we understand that fighting invasive species is critical. At Eagle Marsh and our other preserves we constantly battle invasive non-native plants such as phragmites and reed canary grass to keep them from crowding out the native plants so vital for a functioning wetland ecosystem and the wildlife it supports.
The Asian carp fence currently at Eagle Marsh was always considered a temporary solution, and it will most likely be removed once permanent changes are made.
A new 1/4-mile self-guided nature trail is in the works for LRWP's Arrowhead Prairie preserve, thanks to a $10,000 grant recently received from the Lupke Foundation. The grant also covers habitat stewardship activities at the preserve, such as prescribed burns to control invasive plant species.
"The former homestead area of the property is being transformed," says Betsy Yankowiak, Director of Preserves and Programs. The trail will start in front of the parking area, pass by new native tree plantings, lead to the native plant garden, go past the chimney swift tower, wind through mature trees, and return through a short-stature native grass prairie.
An educational kiosk and a number of signs are planned to help visitors identify native trees, many of them planted with grant funds. A larger sign will explain why chimney swifts need a nesting tower. Work will start on the trail in April, continue throughout the summer, and should be complete by fall.
"The new trail will be a fun way for visitors to learn more about how beautiful and wildlife-friendly our native trees and plants are," explains Yankowiak. "We love having the opportunity to educate the community about them, with our preserves as the showcase."