Volunteers at the Southwest Conservation Club on Bluffton Road are beginning to see the impacts of their efforts to revitalize one acre of land back to it’s native roots.
The prairie was originally planted in December of 2016 with the assistance of a $1,000 grant from the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society in addition to privately seeded donations from members of the Southwest Conservation Club. The project is intended to bring back habitat for wildlife, to benefit pollinators as well as to be used as a showcase for the public to view and consider native plants as an option for their home gardens.
Consisting primarily of wildflowers as well as tall and short grasses, the prairie is now about 3 feet tall, but still has at least 3 to 5 years until it is fully matured. It has been a continuous effort to maintain through environmentally friendly methods by volunteers of The Southwest Conservation Club. But now those volunteers are beginning to reap the fruits of their efforts, such as blooming flowers and the return of wildlife.
“We’ve seen birds, deer and critters of all kinds much more often than before when it was a large grass area. The Club has also saved gas and time from having to not mow the large area as well. It’s been a ton of work, removing invasive plant species, but it’s beginning to really look like something now.” Eddie Coble, a volunteer project manager commented.
The existence of the prairie has also lead to more educational activities held on the grounds of the 80-year-old Club. Recently, students from the University of Saint Francis, led by Club member and USF professor, Dr. Louise Weber, have also been assisting with revitalization of the prairie and surrounding trees. According to Coble, Dr. Webber hopes to utilize the prairie as a learning opportunity for students to conduct research projects and gain in-the-field conservation experience.
In addition to collegiate level education, the prairie has also served as a fantastic learning opportunity for children as well. In its third season this summer, the Southwest Honey Company has utilized the prairie as a part of the “Explore The Honey Bee” pollinator appreciation classes. And recently, local Boy Scout Troops and the Fort Wayne Zoo’s “Teens For Nature” have been on-site to learn through hands-on experiences to plant flowers and assist with general cleanup of the property.
“This is just the beginning of using the prairie to serve not only our environment, but our community as well through educational opportunities. To the average person, it might look like a bunch of weeds. But, to the birds, bugs and animals, it looks like a safe haven in the middle of the city. I would like to thank everyone who has assisted with all aspects of making this possible, especially the ‘Prairie Committee’ at the Southwest Conservation Club, Nanette Coble, Dr. Webber and Anne Horn.” Coble Commented.
Next time you attend a public event at the Southwest Conservation Club, the Club invites you check out the prairie, which will be on the left-hand side of the driveway as you enter the property.