The Rieck Center for Habitat Studies, one of The University of Findlay’s rural jewels, has received a $93,316 Ohio EPA grant to turn flooding into an environmental and educational asset.
A wetlands restoration and enhancement project will divert water from an existing ditch to a half-acre where agricultural and storm water runoff will be naturally filtered and treated. A six-acre floodplain with existing shallow wetlands will be enhanced to improve water retention on the property during minor floods. Invasive species, particularly ragweed and reed canary grass, will also be removed so that native vegetation and wildlife, especially amphibians, can flourish.
Dr. Benjamin Dolan, who teaches ecology, botany and conservation biology, characterized the grant as “an awesome deal” for the 55-acre Center, located near Mount Blanchard on Township Road 166. “Space-wise, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to some other places, but we hope to have it serve as a demonstration for marginal lands that flood, for places where crops can’t be grown but that can be used to help reduce flooding in other areas,” he said.
Most of the wetlands work will occur on the property’s somewhat hilly southeast quadrant, which is already a floodplain because of the Blanchard River that oxbows nearby. Beginning this fall, contractors will hollow out about seven additional areas for water to collect. Approximately $10,000 in unspent grant funding from a defunct wetlands restoration project, which didn’t begin because the targeted parcel was too sandy, will also be used to extend an existing wetland located between the Center’s pond and a crop field.
Sophomore and senior students enrolled in the biology program’s seminar courses will in early spring 2015 install native vegetation in the newly constructed wetlands. The project’s completion is slated for March 31, 2015. But learning will continue with wetlands maintenance to ensure that native species are thriving and to prevent invasive species from infiltrating; and with environmental testing that will monitor how well the wetlands are functioning.
On Sunday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m., the public is invited to an open house to learn more about the EPA-funded wetlands restoration and enhancement project, to tour the wetland areas, and to become acquainted with the Rieck Center, which previously served as an animal shelter and was then sold to the University in 2007 for education and research. The public is also invited to join the Friends of the Rieck Center, a volunteer organization that enjoys the natural environment for hiking, bird watching, research, and many other outdoor activities. Members have access to the facility from dawn to dusk each day.
For more information about the Center and Friends of the Rieck Center, visit www.rieckcenter.org.