Black Swamp Conservancy Restoration Wetlands
Forrest Woods is now a restored wetland with a diversity of habitats.
Northwest Ohio has many examples of wetland restoration on the shores of Lake Erie: a project at Maumee Bay State Park, the new Howard Marsh Metropark in the same area, and Winous Point Marsh Conservancy in Sandusky Bay are all projects TMACOG partners have been involved with. Now TMACOG member Black Swamp Conservancy is restoring wetlands 80 miles away from Lake Erie but with the same goal of protecting the lake’s water quality by capturing and treating nutrients.
The Black Swamp Conservancy owns Forrest Woods Nature Preserve near Cecil, Ohio in Paulding County. Much of the area is a remnant of the Great Black Swamp but some is cultivated for agriculture. In 60 acres at the at the confluence of Marie DeLarme Creek and Maumee River, the Conservancy is converting farm fields to forested wetlands.
Christine Kuchle, northwest assistant regional manager for Scenic Rivers at the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, has been following the project since it began in 2016. She described the strategy of the Conservancy’s wetland restoration project. “The great value is that it targets subsurface drainage from agriculture, right where it enters the Maumee River.” She explained that it’s hard to get nutrients out of the Maumee River, and preventing it from entering is effective. “This is a smaller scale project compared to some big wetlands on the lake shore,” she said, “but enough of these projects at selected sites could have a very large impact.” She said that all wetlands have value. “You need both types. The coastal wetlands are of great value – to migratory birds in particular – but these smaller volume wetlands in the upper watershed might be the most effective way to capture and deal with agricultural runoff. They aren’t as flashy, but they are effective.”
Rob Krain, executive director of the Black Swamp Conservancy said, “We can’t fix Lake Erie by working only in Toledo. We need to be working throughout the watershed.” In the Forrest Woods project area where the only waterway was a partially buried channelized ditch in a monoculture farm field, there is now a meandering open stream, with terraced flood banks to hold additional water during rain events, areas that form vernal pools in the spring, and growing habitat in and out of the waterway. “It’s amazing how quickly wildlife responded,” said Krain. “This spring, the sound of chorus frogs in the vernal pools was deafening.” The fields have also been planted with 22,000 trees in the 150-acre area. The team selected species that grow naturally in the adjoining old growth woods of Forrest Woods Nature Preserve.
EnviroScience is the firm the Conservancy selected to design and build the wetland. EnviroScience has partnered with Kent State University to evaluate the success of the project. Researchers will conduct pre- and post-restoration water quality monitoring, soil nutrient analyses, and hydrologic assessments of the restored fields. The Conservancy is also conducting a 10-year water quality monitoring program on the preserve to determine the effectiveness of stream and wetland restoration on reducing nutrient loading.
Funding for the project came from an Ohio EPA grant (Surface Water Improvement Fund), the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, National Wildlife Federation, and the Clean Ohio Fund. The restoration area is open to the public and there is a perimeter trail for walkers. Access to the sensitive old-growth forested wetland at Forrest Woods Nature Preserve, which harbors more than 30 rare and endangered species, requires a permit.
For more information on Forrest Woods and to see other planned Conservancy projects, visit www.blackswamp.org.