Lourdes University Lends Lots of Helping Hands!

On Friday, October 7, 2016, Sylvan Prairie Park’s south parking lot was full!!! If you happened to look around the park that morning, terracotta and black clothing was seen at every corner and even a few could be found in the middle of the prairie! Over 60 Lourdes University students, faculty, and staff came to lend a helping hand with The Olander Park System’s Natural Resources Team during their morning of service.

With shovels, gloves, trowels, and bags in hand, everyone was off to help make environmental impacts restoring riparian (stream-side) habitat on two ditches in the park and collecting milkweed seeds for Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) (http://www.ophi.info/) on a beautiful sunny day. Five 25 gallon totes were overflowing with collected milkweed seeds that morning. More than 200 trees and 500 plants were planted in the riparian zones, as part of a stream-side restoration project funded by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act.

The Lourdes students were able to learn about the park, our restoration efforts, and OPHI up close with a hands on approach. Some hands were dirty, and others sticky! But, we all enjoyed the camaraderie and sunshine while making a difference in our community!

Thank you for sharing your time and talents with us!!!! As one student mentioned, “This was great!, I can come back in 5 years and say I planted that!” Please do! We hope you will come back and watch the changes you helped make possible and often!  We hope to see you all at the park again soon! img_20161007_110737293_hdr img_20161007_114634087 img_20161007_104911848 img_20161007_102032435

Lourdes University helps out at Sylvan Prairie Park

Lourdes University has been encouraging their students to volunteer with The Olander Park System (TOPS) for years. Students help us with monitoring stream health, measuring changes in plant community, planting trees and other native plants, and controlling non-native invasive plants.

Dr. James Minesky, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences, is one of the driving forces behind Lourdes University’s partnership with Olander. He recently said, “We bring Lourdes University students to volunteer with The Olander Park System because TOPS is a fabulous community asset and we believe it is important for students to be involved in volunteer work and service learning that supports and enhances the assets and resources in our community. A college education is about more than earning a degree in a particular discipline – it is also about understanding the resources and challenges in your given community and how a person’s education can help improve the quality of life in the community.”

CLICK HERE for an article about a recent day when Lourdes University helped plant trees at Sylvan Prairie Park.

Photo by Helene Sheets. Accessed from SylvaniaAdvantage.com

ZOOTeens at Sylvan Prairie Park

A group of ten ZOOTeens joined The Olander Park System’s Natural Resources Team to help out our native plants and wildlife at Sylvan Prairie Park this week.

The teens pulled piles and piles of the non-native invasive plant, Spotted Knapweed. If left unchecked, the weed can dominate a site, out-competing our native plants and making the area less diverse. Less diversity in the plant community means less types of native insects and wildlife can live there.

ZOOTeens!

ZOOTeens pull knapweed at Sylvan Prairie

The ZOOTeens have been volunteering to do this kind of conservation work at TOPS Parks every month for over a decade!

THANK YOU ZOOTEENS!

Timberstone Junior High Helps Out at Sylvan Prairie Park

On May 12, eighty 7th graders from Timberstone Junior High School spent their school day outside at The Olander Park System’s Sylvan Prairie Park. The students planted 300 native trees and shrubs, and 1,000 native grasses and wildflowers, and participated in an educational water quality activity led by Partners for Clean Streams’ Mike Mathis.2016-05-12 13.32.42

This is the 5th year Timberstone Junior High’s 7th Grade Reading class has partnered with The Olander Park System for this day of community service. Teachers Melissa Dubiel and Tammy Gordon organize the 7th Grade class’s annual community service program called “Packed with Pride.” Each year, the 7th Grade Reading students organize, publicize and complete drives for local organizations. This year they collected items for Paws and Whiskers, Hannah’s Socks, Fellowship Matters and Austin’s Book Club. The field trip to help The Olander Park System plant trees is a culminating activity for a year of helping the community. The school funds the field trip through a grant from Target.

Sampling the Stream

Sampling the Stream

This year at the field day, teachers Joe Wendt, Ellen Bellemore and Melissa Dubiel supervised groups of students who worked with staff from The Olander Park System to plant native trees and grasses and wildflowers at Sylvan Prairie Park. The planting is part of a floodplain restoration project financed through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act. Olander Parks designed the project to create new wildlife habitat in the floodplain and improve water quality in the streams of Sylvan Prairie Park. The 7th graders learned about these water quality benefits and about the critters that need clean streams to survive during a fun hands-on stream activity put on by Mike Mathis from Partners for Clean Streams.

Living Things in the Stream

Living Things in the Stream

The 7th graders were excited to see wildlife using the land they were helping to restore. They saw Leopard Frogs, American Toads, Deer Mice (babies!), Crayfish, Snapping Turtle (baby!), Killdeer (eggs!), Red-tailed Hawk, and even a Long-bodied Cellar Spider eating ants. TOPS was excited to partner with the school and Partners for Clean Streams to make the “Packed with Pride” field trip a meaningful learning experience for the 7th Graders of Timberstone and to promote a connection with nature in this young generation.

TOPS Works to Reduce Invasive Phragmites

Phragmites. What is it? How did it get here? Why is it significant? Let me tell you!

The common reed, Phragmites australis, is an aggressively invasive plant species that can be found in many wetlands in the region. Phragmites is an exotic species, which means it is not native to our area. It was brought over to North America from Eurasia to be used as an ornamental plant in aquatic areas.

Phragmites is wind-pollinated and produces a large flowering head in late summer

Phragmites is wind-pollinated and produces a large flowering head in late summer

Phragmites grows in dense stands that can reach 15 feet in height. These groupings choke out other plant species, effectively forming a monoculture. The plant also produces toxins that inhibit the growth of competing plant species. In addition, stands of Phragmites are unsuitable habitat for many animals because it grows too thick.

At Sylvan Prairie Park, our Conservation Team is working to reduce and eventually eradicate Phragmites. In September, we treat the plants with herbicide to kill the new growth before it can spread. We then return in the winter to cut down the standing dead stalks to open up the area. Over several years of management, the stands of Phragmites have noticeably decreased, giving way to native plant species that are starting to flourish.

Cutting Phragmites

Volunteers from University of Toledo’s Department of Environmental Sciences help TOPS cut dead stands of phragmites at Sylvan Prairie Park.

Phragmites grows in dense monocultures, choking out native plant life

Phragmites grows in dense monocultures, choking out native plant life

Macro-invertebrate Sampling at Sylvan Prairie Park

Students from Lourdes University’s Restoration Ecology class came out last week to help TOPS staff conduct macro-invertebrate testing in the ditches at Sylvan Prairie Park. Macro-invertebrates are good indicators of stream healthiness and are used to gauge the living conditions in our waterways.

TOPS is tracking the state of the macro-invertebrates in the ditches at Sylvan Prairie to see if the restoration we’ve been doing there is having positive effects on the water quality on site.

TOPS Conservation Mission

Imagine yourself in the Sylvania area in the early 1800s … in a vast expanse of forested wetland (the Great Black Swamp) with large elm and ash trees, stands of sugar maple, wild turkeys, and woodpeckers. Here and there the trees give way to open marshlands with rushes, flowering shrubs, dragonflies, and turtles. To the south and east, you would find dry land where a huge band of sand dunes rises from the swamp. On the ribbon of sand dunes (the Oak Openings Region) grow stands of oak savanna and patches of tallgrass prairie, with spreading oaks, 8-foot tall grasses, ground-nesting birds, fox, and butterflies. But in the late 1800s, the landscape was changed. Swamps were drained, dunes were leveled, streams were straightened and forests were cleared to allow farming and settlements. In recent decades, much of the region’s remaining natural areas gave way to modern development: paved roads, parking lots, subdivisions, shopping malls and resource extraction.

The Olander Park System and its Natural Resources Team are dedicated to bringing back a little bit of nature to Sylvania.

Grey-headed Coneflower and Bergamot Photo by Sherrie Plessner

Photo by Sherrie Plessner

WHY?         The conversion of our natural areas has lead to a loss of native plants, wildlife and “ecosystem services.” Paved roads, plowed fields, roof tops and lawns don’t handle stormwater and pollutants the same way as wetlands, prairies, woods and streams. They don’t support the same plants, pollinators and healthy soils. The result of our artificial landscape is more flooding, more polluted water (including harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie), fewer pollinators (which we need to pollinate our food), fewer wildlife and plant species, and fewer spaces and opportunities for people to interact with nature.

HOW?         TOPS works to restore and preserve nature in Sylvania by purchasing land from developers and restoring our park lands to a more natural state. We have leveraged your valuable levy dollars by receiving competitive grant money to fund land purchases and natural area restoration projects. To plan and perform this restoration work, TOPS employs a Natural Resources Manager (me), an Assistant Manager (Robin Parker) and four seasonal Natural Resources staff.

Visit our parks to see what we do!

At Southview Oak Savanna, we remove trees and shrubs to turn overgrown woodland back into the open habitat of the globally rare Oak Openings Region.

At Sylvan Prairie Park, we convert farm fields to prairies and wetlands by planting native plants and removing drainage tiles. We restore drainage ditches to more natural, winding streams that can support fish, shorebirds, clean water and flood control by widening the channels and planting native trees on their banks.

At Olander Park, we convert some landscaping from turf grass and ornamentals to native plants that can thrive in the sandy soils. We grow native plants for these projects in our own greenhouse.

Is it working?  YES!

Bike to Southview Oak Savanna on the University Parks Trail and see endangered plants growing below the scattered oaks. Pick a few native blueberries or look for a box turtle hiding in fallen oak leaves.

Stroll through Sylvan Prairie Park on the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail and see fields of native flowers and tall grasses where once there was corn. On a spring night, listen to a chorus of frogs where once there was silence. View the mating dance of woodcocks where once they flew past to a better location. Watch the restored stream flow slowly through the plants that clean the water. Try to catch a glimpse of the beaver that moved in last fall.

Walk around Lake Olander and see hummingbirds, goldfinches, butterflies and native bees visit our native flower beds. Come during a rainstorm and watch the native raingardens by the parking lots soak up the stormwater, preventing it from flowing across the dirty pavement and into the Lake.

Want to help?

Livie and Alayna roll out the erosion matting as Maya and Taylor plant behind them.

Join us at our monthly Volunteer Adventures, “Restoring Wildlife Habitat,”

where you might wield a shovel to plant natives at Sylvan Prairie or brandish loppers to cut down invading shrubs at Southview Oak Savanna.

I hope to see you out in our parks, enjoying nature!

Melanie Coulter

Natural Resources Manager

Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week One

Milkweed

The second year of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps (OYCC) has officially begun! This year’s group is comprised of 13 middle school-aged youths: all are students from Sylvania area schools. The Olander Park System’s goal for the OYCC is to provide conservation-related work sessions for the corps members at various parks and natural areas in the Northwest Ohio Region. We strive to expose the corps members to as many natural areas as possible in their 12 days scheduled with us.

2015 Youth Conservation Corps walks to their first project at Olander Park.

2015 Youth Conservation Corps walks to their first project at Olander Park.

The first work session included an introduction to conservation activities and discussion of what conservation means to each corps member while crafting beaded tassels for their backpacks. After that, we walked to the far side of Olander Park to prep and plant a new native prairie area of the park.

A variety of plants were put in the ground randomly to imitate a natural prairie. The plants include nodding onion, purple love grass, joe pye weed, grey-headed coneflower, and Ohio spiderwort.

Each plant was carefully removed from its pot to be planted in to the sandy soil.

Each plant was carefully removed from its pot to be planted in to the sandy soil.

 

Corps members first prepped the bed by raking and weeding.

Corps members first prepped the bed by raking and weeding.

Then they plant x native forbs in the new bed!

Then they planted nearly 500 native forbs in the new bed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the second day, we visited Dr. Scott Heckathorn in his botany laboratory at the University of Toledo. The Corps members were assigned two projects: determining the colors of pigments in various plants and the amount of protein in three different food types. They also studied the same plants beneath a dissecting microscope and prepared slides of corn skin and leaf cells beneath a compound microscope.

The plant material was broken down by adding liquid nitrogen and then grinding with mortar and pestle.

The plant material was broken down by adding liquid nitrogen and then grinding with mortar and pestle.

Alayna shows her plant pigment after separating the precipitate plant material from the supernatant pigment.

Alayna shows off her plant’s pigment after taking it out of the centrifuge.

The food was broken down the same way as the plants. They determined the protein content of tater tots, hot dogs, and soy patties.

The food was broken down the same way as the plants. They determined the protein content of tater tots, hot dogs, and soy patties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third and final day of the first week was spent picking up litter at the Meilke Road Savanna in Spencer Township. Among the trash and treasures we discovered were old toy trucks, part of a mattress, over 25 intact glass bottles and jars, lots of scrap metal, the remains of an old microwave or radio, and even a kitchen sink! Afterwards we explored the sand dunes at the savanna.

After working hard to clean up the savanna, Corps members enjoyed exploring the sand dunes at Meilke Road

After working hard to clean up the savanna, Corps members enjoyed exploring the sand dunes at Meilke Road

Livie, Alayna, and Alena show off their Earth Star mushrooms

Livie, Alayna, and Alena show off their Earth Star mushrooms

Earth star mushrooms curl up into a ball when they dry out and unfurl into a star-like shape once moistened.

Earth star mushrooms curl up into a ball when they dry out and unfurl into a star-like shape once moistened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the day, we hauled all the trash back to Olander to dispose of or recycle.

At the end of the day, we hauled all the trash back to Olander to dispose of or recycle.

Everyone is excited for next week’s projects! See you then!

Volunteer Work Day this Sunday

Looking for a way to make a difference in the community? Join us to restore wildlife habitat in Sylvania this Sunday March 30 from 9am to noon.

We’ll be working at the Southview Oak Savanna, removing leaves to make the sandy soil better able to support the rare plants that like sunny, sandy spots in the Oak Openings Region.

Wear long pants and bring gloves if you have them. Meet at Olander Park’s Maintenance Building at 9am Sunday. Volunteers will need transportation to and from the worksite.

Mel SylvaniaOakSavanna

Protecting Young Trees

In 2013, we planted almost 500 trees and shrubs at Sylvan Prairie Park. Most of them were planted along Smith Ditch, which we have been restoring to a more natural stream system. One thing needed for a waterway to function as a healthy stream is trees and shrubs growing along its banks. The wooded zone running along side a stream or river is called the riparian zone. We planted young shrubs and trees along Smith Ditch to create a wooded riparian zone. This will create wildlife habitat along the stream, and make a corridor for wildlife to move safely up and down the stream. The shade from the trees and shrubs falling on the moving water of the stream will also keep the water at a nice cool temperature in the summer, which will allow fish to live and hopefully spawn (lay eggs) in this stream.

However, the bark and stems of newly planted young trees and shrubs are a tasty treat for deer and rabbits. Especially in the winter when their preferred foods like grass and leaves are gone. So before the winter really sets in, we needed to put protection on these young trees and shrubs to discourage deer and rabbits from munching on them. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in these pictures, our timing was a little late. Most of the trees and shrubs are still doing okay, and our tree wraps will help them make it through the winter. But we had to work through some wintry weather ourselves to get it done. Thank you to the Wild Ones hardy volunteers who came out to help us!

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Dedicated volunteers from Wild Ones!

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Is this protective tree wrap, or an artistic sculpture?

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It was windy out there!