Terry Breymaier, president of Friends of Pearson Park, refers to the Metropark’s
Tree-crew contractors planted 100,000 trees, shrubs, and bushes
at Pearson North. (Press file photo by Ken Grosjean)
300-acre north expansion as “one of the biggest conversation pieces in Oregon.”
Pearson North is in the process of being restored to its natural state as a swamp woods and open wetland by the Columbus-based Ohio Wetlands Foundation.
Pearson North, acquired in 2001, is beginning to show positive signs of becoming a wetland capable of attracting natural habitat, says OWF President Vincent E. Messerley.
Messerley said the oasis of trees, water and meadow provided by the area will be a natural stopover for birds, and meadows with wildflowers will provide important nectaring sources for butterflies and insects.
“We thought it had the highest chance of being a good wetland project to restore the Old Black Swamp and we settled on that,” Messerley said.
Since then, 100,000 trees, shrubs, and bushes have been planted in Pearson North.
“The ratio we used was 600 individual tree seedlings per acre and 100 shrubs per acre,” Messerley said. “We tried very hard to use native seed material from this area, or from Michigan or Indiana, and stay within this climate as much as possible.”
Sixty thousand trees were planted on the west side, and about half of them were planted with the aid of tree-tubes, which were removed last year.
Messerly said when the tubes were taken down the mortality rate was surprisingly good. He said typically about 15 to 20 percent do not survive, but at Pearson North it was closer to five percent, which he added “is pretty good for tree planting.”
“We lost a lot to strong wind storms and some suffered some deformity, but many of them found ways to grown new branches and some died,” Messerley continued.
Messerley said the Metroparks of the Toledo Area's contract includes replacing trees and brush that died, but said they are still close to 1,000 per acre with those that survived.
Messerley said Sycamore trees in the expansion are now reaching eight to nine feet, and a couple thousand willow trees have been planted along Heckman Creek.
He said anyone at the park this spring should not be surprised if they see cultivating and seeding continuing to bring back plant life that did not survive.
Wetlands and trails
The project provides for some diverse habitat in wet meadows and shallow marsh, but it also restores some of the forested wetlands of the region, Messerley said.
About 150 acres, or 60 percent of 200 acres being developed into natural habitat at Pearson North, are restored forested wetlands.
The Pearson Wetlands Mitigation Bank includes 3,100 feet of restored stream; 15 acres of restored scrub/shrub and marsh habitats; over 18 acres of restored wet meadow and native prairie; 20 acres of existing swamp forest; and 6.5 acres of existing wet meadow and shallow emergent wetlands.
“We’re going to try to encourage that to be a little bigger,” John Jaeger, retired director of natural resources for the Metroparks, said.
An eight-acre pond has been constructed with a maximum depth of two feet, Messerley said. He said a public use area surrounding the pond has been elevated so the public will be able to watch water fowl living in its natural habitat.
A former ditch has been replaced by the 3,100 foot long Heckman Creek, which has been constructed to wander through the expansion. At the lower end of the creek an estuary has been constructed.
“One of the things that we’re pretty proud of is the stream. The former ditch out on Wynn Road has been renovated and the ditch is now more like a stream,” Messerley said.
“The City of Oregon had some concerns about how is this whole stream-thing going to work,” Messerley continued. “Now when it floods it can get to that elevation sooner, so we actually created a new floodplain out of it. The stream, otherwise, could not naturally have been that deep. We got a call from City Engineer Paul Roman saying how impressed he was, so we’re pretty pleased that we did that.”
Messerley says he has been keeping an eye on how water levels in the pond, creek, and the wetlands interact during the seasons. The goal is to recreate how levels raised and fell when the region was part of the Great Black Swamp.
“It’s really amazing of how that hydrology just comes and goes out here,” Messerley said. “It’s been a boom to bust hydrology and we’re really expecting that area to do the same thing. It’s really interesting — how do you develop a hydrology that originally took centuries to develop?”
Another project includes restoring micro topography. Messerley explained that as trees and foliage die in its natural habitat, the plant life falls, decomposes, and piles up, leaving a high topography.
Messerley said the original topography of the Black Swamp area was not level until fields were graded for farming. He said the OWF is trying to restore that topography in the expansion area because naturally high spots can support one type of plant life, low spots another.
He said it is not just plant life that fares better in different types of topography.
“Centuries of farming have done a very good job of installing drainage tiles, but we’re trying to create one of those bird baths back in the low areas,” Messerley said.