Paul Noeldner, creator of the 4th Sunday Birding and Nature walks, greeted the 16 attendees for the walk at the entrance to Picnic Point. Paul loaned binoculars and DNR diagrams of wetland invertebrates to participants. Although the marsh is the oldest part of the Preserve, it was the first tour into it for many of the participants. Doris Dubielzig, Friends President, took the group across University Bay Drive to the dedication rock for the Class of 1918 Marsh, and reviewed the history of the site since the time of settlement in the 1850s. John Magnuson, Emeritus Professor of Limnology and past Friends President, led the group along the eastern edge of the “really disturbed” marsh to the inlet to the pump house, which is used to manage the water level of the marsh. Prof. Magnuson shared what he had learned from his own research on chloride concentrations in the marsh and from a recent tour of the marsh he took with wetland ecologists and restoration specialists. Because fluctuating water levels benefit sedge meadow plants over the cattails, the water level in the marsh should be lowered each autumn. Then, in the winter, when the ice is solid, the cattails and other plants would be cut, and, ideally, burned onsite. In the spring, flooding the marsh again would favor the diverse species of a sedge meadow. Eve Emshwiller, a Friends member who participated in this walk, identified an interesting marsh plant the Glade mallow among the sedge grasses. The range of this uncommon plant is restricted to only a few states in the Midwest.
The tour continued to the southern inlet conveying storm water drainage from the hospital complex, and along the western edge, the healthiest part of the marsh, where a variety of plants, including milkweeds and sedges flourish.
The birders in our group were happy to see the family of sandhill cranes, with two healthy colts, and to hear marsh wrens and catbirds.
In preparation for restoration of the entire marsh, Magnuson envisions testing the wetlands specialists’ suggestions in two pilot areas each a square football field in size. The first would be off the existing observation deck near the northern end of the marsh, and the second would extend beyond a floating pier installed off the path along the southeastern edge. The group on this tour responded favorably to Magnuson’s information and his suggestions for the marsh’s future. Summary by Doris Dubielzig Photos by Paul Noeldner.