Looking for a glimpse of America’s majestic national symbol? Eagle Marsh, just a stone’s throw from Waynedale’s back door, may just be your chance to spy one.
Among the myriad of things the wetland preserve offers is an actual, functioning bald eagle’s nest, nestled in the woods and wetlands along Engle Road. And that’s in addition to the numerous events, hiking trails and scores of endangered animals at the marsh, which is a 716-acre nature preserve straddling Engle Road, just southwest of Fort Wayne.
Betsy Yankowiak, Director of Little River Wetlands Program (LWRP) Preserve and Programs, said her group’s mission is one of getting people involved.
“Everybody can do their part,” Yankowiak said. “Whether it’s picking up trash, recycling or just donating money. We can all do something small. We just want to encourage people to get out there and help, even if it’s to do the smallest thing.”
The eagle’s nest is actually just across Engle Road, on Republic Service’s property, across from The Plex Golf Dome South, at 7652 Engle, and is large enough for just about anyone to see, Yankowiak said.
The eagles’ home base, which has been active since 2011, is one of the biggest draws for marsh visitors, Yankowiak said. One of the most entertaining moments, Betsy remarked, is when the male leaves the nest to hunt for food, leaving the female behind to sit on the couple’s eggs.
When the male returns, she said, the female screeches loudly at the male, as if to say, what took you so long?! “Everybody enjoys that part,” Yankowiak said.
The marsh encompasses more than 10 miles of trails to give hikers access to the plethora of habitats, creatures and natural wetlands contained within it.
In 2005, The Little River Wetlands Project (LRWP) acquired the land – then only 676 acres – to help preserve and protect it. The group did so with assistance from the Federal Wetlands Reserve Program; the Indiana Heritage Trust of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources; and the Nature Conservancy of Indiana; and LRWP members.
Between 2007 and 2010, the group added 40 more acres to the marsh, mostly forested wetlands. These mature wooded areas helped provide important habitats for many native birds and animals that need large trees, sandy soil or fallen leaves to complete their life cycles.
Some of the many events scheduled at the park include: The Little River Ramblers, which meet every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Short Hikes for Short Legs (which lets children hike the area’s trails). Native Plant Workshop; and the celebration of Earth Day at Eagle Marsh, which will happen April 30.
Earth Day, which has its national observance on April 22, is one of the preserve’s biggest events.
On Sunday, April 30 from 1pm to 5pm LWRP closes down a portion of Engle Road and sets up tents for a family-friendly community event. This conservation-minded group has available, for young and old alike, learning activities on the road and throughout the marsh, including:
*The Preservation Tent: Where visitors can see a demonstration on the area’s raptors, or birds of prey (probably the most popular demonstration, according to Yankowiak), find out about all the pollinators in the preserve, including honey bees from The Southwest Honey Co.; listen to a talk on native plants; and find out more information about the Little River.
*The Partners in Conservation Tent: Groups that help support the LRWP are shown off to the public, including Aqua Indiana, Indiana & Michigan Power Company, Fort Wayne City Utilities, NIPSCO, Republic Trash Services, WBOI radio station and Canterbury Middle School.
*The Marketplace Tent: This is where people sell various environmental wares, from recycled crafts, to natural honey. And, a farmers market.
*Planting Station where experts help plant native greenery in the marsh, including Prairie Cord Grass, wildflowers like milkweed, New England Aster, and black-eyed Susans.
*Education Stations to help families learn more about Eagle Marsh and its habitat.
LRWP Spring Clean-Up, which has been held for the last 15 years, is another major event the group sponsors. On this day – Saturday, April 22 (the national observation of Earth Day) from 10am to noon – groups of volunteers will meet at the new Eagle Marsh gateway parking area (west of green gate) at 6801 Engle Road to scour the Little River and the shoulders of Engle Road, picking up debris, litter and other trash to help keep the preserve clean. Bring garden rakes, grabbers, any useful tools, trash bags and waterproof work gloves if you can and be ready to clean up this beautiful marsh. Republic Services donates the trucks, their time and money to pick up everything the volunteers clean out of the marsh. “It’s a great activity for families,” Yankowiak said. “And everybody can do their part.”
If you are interested in helping to protect this local natural wonder, LRWP is always on the lookout for volunteers or donations to, in their words, “protect the preserve’s native plants from being taken over by invasive species.” LRWP can be contacted at (260) 478-2515.