RIBBON CUTTING … The ribbon is cut during the ceremony held for the new wetlands located at the Oak Openings Preserve in Swanton. (PHOTO BY JACOB KESSLER, STAFF)
By: Jacob Kessler
H2Ohio in partnership with the Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Toledo Metro Parks and Village of Swanton, held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly created wetlands at the Oak Openings Preserve.
Just behind the Old El Camino restaurant on Airport Highway lies what used to be a corn field. This 48-acre area of land was converted as part of the State’s H2Ohio initiative and Clean Ohio Greenspace Conservation Program, which both aim to clean the environment and the water shed.
14-acres of the space have been converted to forested wetlands; 17-acres have been converted to a new upland prairie/savanna habitat along with another 17-acres that have been converted to preserved forests.
This forest will include a riparian corridor with high-quality seep-fed wetlands and a 2-acre vernal pool.
With this new expansion, the Oak Openings Preserve Metroparks now protects a total of 4,291 acres. This is the largest protected natural inland area in Northwest Ohio.
Before the ribbon cutting took place, numerous individuals who took part in the project spoke. Toledo Metroparks Chief Natural Resources Officer Tim Schetter was one such individual who spoke. He explained that this project is part of the larger goal to bring wetlands back to Ohio.
“These wetlands capture runoff from State Route 64, and they also help to provide additional habitats for all the wildlife that uses this area.”
“Ohio has lost over 90% of its wetlands since the prehistoric wetlands so it’s incredibly important that we restore wetlands not only for the habitat value but for water quality. One of the reasons of course that Lake Erie suffers from algal blooms is because of the loss of wetlands.”
“Every acre of wetlands that we can restore, especially higher up in the water shed in areas where we can protect headwater streams and take marginal farmland like this and convert it back to natural areas is incredibly important for capturing that water quality farther down the stream.”
“We have restored over 1,000 acres of wetlands in the last five years in collaboration with Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio program, ODNR and the Ohio EPA through various programs.
All those wetlands have been restored in Lucas County as far East as Howard Marsh and as far west as this site and at Secor where we converted the former golf course primarily into a wetland and restored stream area.”
“Once this site is completely restored, we will extend our Oak Openings Hiking Trail out into the site. There will also be interpretive signage.”
“There’s also going to be opportunities for students, both for universities as well as K-12 students to come out here and learn about wetlands, about the value of wetlands and all the benefits they provide.”
Mr. Schetter also explained that the wetlands act as a filter for the water that flows through them. “The water on this site is primarily through precipitation. The water that comes into this site then flows into the adjacent streams.”
“Not only that but also water coming in through the road ditch which is now being diverted on to this site to filter those nutrients, that water will also be captured and filtered (by the wetlands) before that water ends up in Lake Erie.”
Lastly, Mr. Schetter explained that new wildlife opportunities will be seen from bringing wetlands back into the area. “We have planted 6,600 trees.”
“The prairie with the grasses and wildflowers, we are going to be planting about 100 species that will be reintroduced onsite. Of course, this will attract all the wildlife back on site and we will be tracking that over time.”
“The wildlife that are in Oak Openings, this will allow for opportunities for them to expand their populations into these areas. Were also seeing with all these new restored wetlands in Northwest Ohio opportunities for new wildlife to come in.”
“We’re seeing a lot more Sand Hill Cranes in the area, and I think it’s a matter of time before we start seeing nesting pairs of Sand Hill Cranes and other wildlife.”
Swanton’s Mayor Toeppe was also present during the ribbon cutting and is excited to see the project coming so close to being completed.
“It’s really exciting because it provides yet another reason for people to come out and discover Swanton, especially the natural area out here as far as the Oak Openings, the bike trails, the community tree house village and now the wetlands which will be an attraction for more and more folks to come out and visit Swanton.”
Following the ribbon cutting, those that cut the ribbon were invited to plant a tree in the area where they were standing.
A tour was also given of the area that showed different parts of the wetland and discussed what each part will look like once the different foliage is all grown.
With the warmer weather now starting to settle in, the hope is to have everything completed with the plants in and growing within the coming months.
Jacob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org