BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
The unique Port Clinton Lakeshore Preserve is emerging on 14 acres of the Lake Erie shoreline in downtown Port Clinton, an urban area that could be converted into a wetland classroom for tomorrow in just a few years.
It wasn’t an easy transition. The US Army Corp of Engineers had to excavate a large-scale invasion of phragmites and other non-native species and halt an invasion of carp when floods inundated the coast in late May. However, the $ 1.4 million project will set a stage for important wetland development in the Great Lakes region.
“With our background in ecosystem management, this is a good opportunity to create a wetland that is close to home and convenient to display in such an urban setting,” said Russell Brandenburg, USACE’s US Army Corp of Engineers project manager -Buffalo District.
With native plants prevailing and the reservation being managed by the city of Port Clinton, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and many other partners, the project could soon become a wetland laboratory that features a state-of-the-art laboratory – Wetlands classrooms for students of all ages.
“We will hand the project over to Port Clinton and the USFWS, who have agreed to take on long-term maintenance,” said Brandenburg. “The Army Corp does not have the authority to stay nearby, but the USFWS can provide more continuous assistance.”
That was evident in late May when strong northeast winds flooded downtown Port Clinton and Waterworks Park, temporarily paralyzing the Walleye Festival over the weekend. Schools of carp from Lake Erie were thronging the new “lake” the storm had created and the USFWS moved quickly to eject the invasive carp with electroshock devices to stun and remove the fish.
“The elaborate wetland systems that are being built in the Port Clinton Lakeshore Preserve will be a model for wetland managers and a classroom for students,” said Brandenburg. “It may not be a large wetland, but it will be convenient for students and teachers to use it once it is completed.”
For the time being, a wooden snow fence was erected to protect the reserve from animals such as muskrats that could affect the new, native vegetation, to keep out predators and prevent the wind-blown beach sand of Lake Erie from filling the wetlands, Port Clinton said Safety- Service Director Tracy Colston. That includes humans, at least until the vegetation matures.
“We have a great partnership with the Corp of Engineers and with the USFWS,” said Colston. âIt’s great for the city that they work with us. Your guidance contributes significantly to the success of the wetlands. “
The Port Clinton Project, despite its small size, will be vital for migratory birds. Once the wetlands are restored, more than half of the migratory bird species in North America will find a very suitable habitat for the Port Clinton wetlands again.
That was evident over the past few years during the Black Swamp Bird Observatory’s Biggest Week in American Birding, a week-long birding extravaganza that now attracts more than 100,000 bird watchers to the wetland habitat of Ottawa County and northwest Ohio in early May.
“The Port Clinton Lakeshore Preserve will be a showcase as we move forward,” said Colston. “USFWS, ready to help the city conserve wetlands for the next five years, and great partnerships with so many agencies, will finally make Port Clinton Lakeshore Preserve a reality.”