New Wildlife Habitat Near Montpelier Holds Open House

TOUR … Site biologist Ashley Devault (black outfit) conducts a tour of the Montpelier Wildlife Habitat Site during an open house June 17. Devault visits the site twice a year to monitor conditions. (PHOTOS BY JAMES PRUITT)

A wildlife habitat is prospering just north of Montpelier, but it’s going to be another year before most people will have a chance to see it.
The Shelly Co. opened its project to the public for an open house June 17. More than 20 people had attended by 11:30 a.m.

The company has been transforming an old sand and gravel quarry and factory – which had sat abandoned since the late 1970s to early ’80 – into a new wildlife habitat since 2008 and likes to show its progress during its open house. The company wants to work with local schools to bring science classes in to plant grasses, clear-cut invasive species and otherwise observe nature.

Shelly Co., geographer Chip Holt manages the property near Montpelier. The company is part of the Wildlife Habitat Council and owns five such properties across Ohio. The site needs to be recertified every three years, Holt said. This is one of those years. The company’s efforts have the moral support of the Ohio DNR, but since it’s privately-held and not open to the public, it cannot receive any funding from Columbus, he said.
The company’s philosophy is to maintain ownership of its sites and encourage other corporations to follow its lead, Holt said.

“Now we create habitats and enhance new habitats,” Holt said.
The Montpelier site used to be a dumping ground of broken concrete and other debris before the decision was made to begin the restoration process. The site also had two farm fields. “It was a mess,” Holt said. The company planted one farm field in 2010 and another in 2013. Now wildflowers can be seen blooming in a variety of colors. All the flora and fauna is WHC approved.

Invasive species are not welcome and the company looks for incursions and makes plans to remove the plants that can choke out the native species. Even trees such as dogwoods and poplars are targeted if they are growing where they become a nuisance.

One of the main purposes of the site are the 2 acres of pollinator gardens. These are places designed to attract bees and butterflies to promote natural growth. “We have 15 acres of grasslands out there of native grasses,” Holt said. “We have 15 acres of wildflowers, hummingbirds and grass.”
The goal of the open house is to encourage local companies and groups to partner with Shelly Co., to help the site, Holt said. In addition, they would like to conduct projects on site.

“We want to attract the school groups to do a field day and some learning opportunities on the site,” Holt said. The open house is scheduled the week before National Pollinator Week, Holt said. “This is our pre-kickoff to National Pollinator Week,” Holt said. “We are all about people coming out here and talking about pollinators and take it home.

Visitors receive seed packets so they can help the natural process as well. Visitors at the open house were invited to fish from the lake where the quarry used to be. A contest was set up to reward people who caught the most fish. Fishers were limited to remain on shore. The most fish caught was going to earn a new pole. Runners-up would receive other, smaller prizes. A free hot dog lunch was planned as well.

Pollinators also include bats and site biologist Ashley Devault is working at the site to build bat houses. She was instrumental in getting the company’s first wildlife site in Dresden up and running. She left the company, but comes back to Montpelier to help monitor the site and provide environmental and pollinator education.

The state of pollinators both globally and nationally is serious with populations declining. “If we don’t have pollinators, we won’t have agricultural products,” Devault said. “Let alone the flowers that we see here.”

The Ohio Department of Transportation is getting areas of land along major routes ready to support the grasses and wildflowers pollinators need and that dovetails well with what Shelly Co. is doing locally, she said.
The open house serves as way to get the public interested in the project, Devault said. So, the company is looking for volunteers, both individuals and groups to come out and aid in the work she said. “To use this space as an outdoor classroom,” Devault said. “We are definitely interested in partnering with those groups.”

BIRDHOUSE … Chip Holt demonstrates bird houses that will be placed in the wildlife site. The houses have ridges on the interior walls so the chicks can climb up and fly out of the structures.

From her perspective, the site has been transformed from an old mine into a place where native species can flourish. The company has been actively planting cool and warm weather grasses and the right plants that will attract Monarch butterflies as well.

“Every year I see a different species of bird; a different species of insect,” Devault said. The site carries the remains of its former industrial use with old paved roads now grown over with grass and woods. The foundation of the old factory is all that remains. A former storage garage has been transformed into a new learning center for the open houses and future school groups. For more information, please contact Holt at dholt@shelly.com


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