Youth Conservation Corps – Week 2 Roundup

Week 2 of the Youth Conservation Corps is complete! We had a fun-filled learning experience, packed with adventures in Wildwood Metropark, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, and Kitty Todd Nature Preserve.

20140624_113311On Tuesday we took a geology field trip at Wildwood Metropark with Dr. Timothy Fisher of the University of Toledo.

20140625_104837Ryan Schroeder, the local district preserve manager of the Ohio Natural Resources Department, gave us an exciting tour of Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve on Wednesday.

20140625_105126We found all sorts of interesting critters in the water at Irwin Prairie, including crayfish, tadpoles, and snails!

20140626_100622We visited Kitty Todd Nature Preserve on Thursday. Ryan Gauger of the Nature Conservancy gave us a great trek through the savanna and prairie at the preserve and showed us several rare plants!
20140626_095739 We learned a lot about the role of fire in the Oak Openings. The kids also got to see what kind of safety gear practitioners of prescribed fire wear on the job.20140626_110950After the nature walk with Ryan, we worked hard to clear away encroaching woody plants on the preserve.

This year’s program is already halfway complete! We are striving to get kids interested in nature by immersing them in our local natural areas and creating positive, memorable experiences for them. Through hands-on activities and instructive lessons, we hope to make the Oak Openings region a more meaningful place to our youth.

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 1 Complete!

The Olander Park System’s Youth Conservation Corps is underway! This program runs for 4 weeks from June 17th to July 10th. It aims to teach middle school children about environmental conservation and increase their awareness of the Oak Openings Region. Here are some photos from the first week of activities. More to come!

Learning how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park

On Tuesday we learned how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park.

On Tuesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings!

On Wednesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings at Sylvan Prairie!

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park…

On Thursday we also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

And also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

Next to come: Adventures during Week 2!

Salamanders at Sylvan Prairie Park!

The Olander Park System’s Conservation Crew found several salamander larvae (aka salamander tadpoles) in a small wetland at Sylvan Prairie Park!

Salamander Larvae

Salamander Larvae at Sylvan Prairie

This is exciting because we have never seen salamanders at Sylvan Prairie before! They are an encouraging sign that our restoration efforts are creating good wildlife habitat. Salamanders lay eggs in wetlands, and their larvae (babies) live underwater. After several weeks, they become adults and begin living on land. Because of their need for both wetland and upland (dry land) habitats, they are considered an indicator of environmental health.

Look at this picture of a salamander larvae. It is tiny, but you can see the gills sticking off the sides of its head. That is how we know it is a salamander and not a frog or a toad. Frog and toad tadpoles do not have visible gills.

We’re going to keep track of the salamander larvae at Sylvan. Hopefully they will survive to become adults, and we’ll be able to identify what kind they are.

See Ohio Amphibians web site to learn more about Ohio’s salamanders

Ambystoma salamander. Photo by Greg Lipps

Ambystoma salamander. Photo by Greg Lipps

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

Monarch Butterflies Need Our Help

One of the most amazing mass migrations in the world is that of the monarch butterfly. It takes four generations of butterflies to complete the 2,500 mile journey every year, and they return to the same sites, sometimes even the exact same trees, each winter. The monarch butterflies you see right here in the Midwest migrate to Mexico each winter. But this astounding event and animal may be disappearing.This year has seen the lowest count of monarchs in more than a decade.monarchs

One main reason for their decline has been the loss of their summer habitat because of changing agricultural practices in the Midwest. When the monarchs are here, they rely on the native flower milkweed as the only food source for the caterpillars. But milkweed has been declining as more grasslands, rangelands and vegetable crops have been turned into corn and soybean farms. The way modern corn and soybean fields are farmed is different now. Farms used to have more “weeds” growing in them. Those weeds included milkweed. Farms also used to have buffer strips around their edges and along ditches and streams. These buffer strips were full of native flowers like milkweed, aster and goldenrod. The flowers provided habitat for butterflies, bees and birds. But with new technologies most farms in the Midwest plant their crops right up to the edge …  no more flower-filled buffer strips. And the modern varieties of corn and soybeans are herbicide-tolerant. That means the fields can be sprayed multiple times with herbicides to kill all the weeds without harming the crops … no more milkweed hiding out among the crop plants. Scientists have been studying monarchs for many years, and they have data showing that the monarchs have steadily declined as the number of acres planted in herbicide-tolerant crops have steadily increased.

Other factors have contributed to the monarchs’ downward spiral. Severe weather like cold snaps and droughts. Loss of over-wintering habitat because of deforestation in Mexico. Urban and suburban development. Increased mowing and herbicide spraying on roadsides. Mosquito spraying. The list goes on. It feels overwhelming. So what can we do?

There are two programs you can check out, the Monarch Waystation program, and the Bring Back the Monarch campaign. Both programs aim to increase the planting of milkweed and the creation of pollinator-friendly habitat. Locally, our Oak Openings Region Chapter of Wild Ones is a big part of these two campaigns and their own local ones … like trying to get native milkweed seeds planted all over Northwest Ohio. If you’re on Facebook, you can “like” a campaign they started to get Milkweed Planted at the White House.

“What else can we do to improve monarch habitat? We need to change our mowing practices. Protect our roadside native vegetation. Stop spraying herbicides, and mow less frequently or not at all. Speak up and tell city officials that we do not want them to mow or spray, and pat them on the back when they listen. Ask local plant nurseries to carry milkweed and native plants that are pesticide-free. Volunteer on nature preserves and at city parks—encourage management to plant milkweed. Collect milkweed seeds. Monitor a milkweed patch.”

And! PLANT SOME MILKWEED!  That is what The Olander Park System is doing. Every habitat restoration project we’ve done since 2009 has included planting milkweed. We’ve planted milkweed all over Sylvan Prairie Park and at our Herr Road property. We protect the milkweed at the Southview Oak Savanna and collect some of their seeds to plant in more areas. We’ve planted milkweed in all the native gardens, including rain gardens, at Olander Park and Sylvan Prairie Park.

Contact us and/or the local chapter of Wild Ones if you want help getting some LOCAL native milkweed seeds and advice on planting it.


The article “Monarch butterfly numbers hit record lows” By Jaymi Heimbuc on Mother Nature Network was also used for this post.

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!

2013-12-15 11.21.47

Dedicated volunteers from Wild Ones!

2013-12-15 11.38.10

Is this protective tree wrap, or an artistic sculpture?

2013-12-15 11.21.43

It was windy out there!


Restoration Experiment

Did you know that TOPS owns a 7-acre parcel where Herr Road crosses Ten Mile Creek?


Vernal Pool at TOPS Herr Road property

Currently, the Herr Road property contains floodplain forest, a vernal pool and some old turf areas. But the old turf area has stopped looking like a yard … over the past several years, some cool native plants started just growing up in the turf. We’re going to help that area change back into native wildlife habitat by removing the turf that’s left and helping native plants grow in its place.

We’re going to do a habitat restoration experiment there. We’re trying two methods of turf removal … scraping the turf off with a loader and spraying the turf with herbicide. Then, we’re going to sow native seeds in half of the scraped areas and half of the sprayed areas. In the other half of the scraped and sprayed areas, we’re going to see what plants grow up from the seed bank … like those natives that already grew through the turf all on their own.

2013-09-19 11.28.21

Scraping the turf off

2013-09-19 11.27.28