Progress & Impact
Conservation takes patience. Often, the pace of nature means it takes years or even decades to see real results. Yet some conservation projects have reached milestones and now are in a maintenance phase.
Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark
This 112-acre site that combines history and conservation is located near Huffman MetroPark — and a nice bike ride from the park via the Wright Brothers-Huffman Prairie Bike Trail.
Today, the Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark is one of the largest prairie remnants in Ohio. It’s located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) and adjacent to the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers tested their planes and now part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park.
Five Rivers MetroParks has partnered with WPAFB to restore and manage Huffman Prairie. Since 1988, these partners have harvested seed, restored degraded sections of the prairie, conducted controlled burns and coordinated research projects. In summer 2015 — thanks to an $11,700 grant from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund — new interpretive signs and plant identification markers were installed to help visitors learn about this significant conservation site.
Many rare plants, birds and insects make the prairie their home. Indeed, Huffman Prairie hosts one the best displays of Ohio prairie grasses and flowers, as well as impressive populations of rare grassland birds, such as bobolinks, dickcissels and sedge wrens. Other unusual species documented on the prairie include the smooth green snake, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, and more than 200 species of butterflies and moths — including one found only in this prairie.
The site is open to the public daily, and a short, easy-to-hike trail winds through the prairie. For bird watching, June is the best time to visit, and for the most spectacular display of wildflowers, visit in mid to late July. To visit, enter through WPAFB gate 16A and follow the signs to Huffman Prairie.
Cover Mapping at Germantown MetroPark
What, exactly, is on MetroParks’ land? Enter cover mapping: surveying forests and grasslands to find out what plants are present and which are dominant.
From 2013 through early 2015, MetroParks staff and volunteers surveyed more than 1,600 acres of land in Germantown MetroPark. They collected detailed information on tree species and size, as well as the concentration of invasive bush honeysuckle. They also used a GPS unit to note the location of each survey point within the park so those points can be located in the future.
After all this data was collected, MetroParks staff created maps that were compared to data collected almost 15 years ago.
Cover mapping data is important for several reasons, as it:
- Identifies the type and amount of vegetation present
- Ensures MetroParks’ goal of protecting biodiversity is met
- Shows how land management has impacted the area
- Directs future management goals
- Updates the historical database of plant species
Changes occur slowly within the forests, and cover mapping has been an important tool, allowing for detailed measurements of these long-term trends.
MetroParks Help Clean Air and Water
Five Rivers MetroParks manages some of the best natural areas in Montgomery County. But these forests, wetlands and prairies are more than beautiful places to hike and watch wildlife — they also help clean the local air and water through natural processes called ecosystem services. The plants in each habitat, along with the unique microbes in the soil, perform these services as part of their normal growth pattern, which is why protecting these habitats for the future is critical.
Clean water is one of the most important parts of a healthy environment. During an average year, more than 11,000 acres of natural habitats in MetroParks filter an estimated 11 billion gallons of water. That’s enough to fill 16,853 Olympic swimming pools.
Rain picks up different particles from the air. When it lands in a habitat, such as a forest, the plant roots and soil microbes help remove the particles as the water runs into a stream or is absorbed into the groundwater. Forests also release water more slowly than hard surfaces, which helps avoid flooding and erosion.
Wetlands are a unique habitat within MetroParks and are known as nature’s kidneys for their special water filtering ability. MetroParks land contains more than 170 acres of wetlands, and many of these wetlands were created by MetroParks at the Great Miami Mitigation Bank and elsewhere.
When water flows through a wetland, special plants and microbes remove suspended soil and nutrients from the water. This helps the wetland plants grow and improves the water quality. Woodman Fen Conservation Area is an excellent example of a wetland where storm water from the surrounding neighborhood is cleaned by wetlands MetroParks created before being released to a stream.
Another important habitat for improving water quality is forests, especially along rivers. MetroParks land contains more than 1,000 acres of forests near rivers and streams. When flooding occurs, these forests provide a place for the flood waters to spread out and slow down. When this happens, soil suspended in the water settles and is left in the forest when water levels return to normal.
The roots of the trees then grow into this new soil, providing nutrients for the trees and preventing the soil from washing downstream. The forests behind the Miami Conservancy District dams at Huffman, Taylorsville, Englewood and Germantown MetroParks provide examples of where this process takes place.
In addition to helping filter water, trees help filter the air. MetroParks land contains more than 6,000 acres of forest habitats. Staff and volunteers planted more than 10,000 trees as part of MetroParks’ reforestation program in spring 2016, in addition to tens of thousands more planted as part of earlier reforestation efforts.
As each tree grows, it draws air into the leaves and removes gases and particles. Trees use carbon dioxide to grow, and MetroParks forests remove an estimated 14 million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Small particles often are a serious air quality problem in urban areas, and MetroParks forests remove an estimated 155,000 pounds of these particles per year, along with more than 157,000 pounds of ozone per year.
By creating and managing natural habitats, MetroParks not only provides homes for wildlife and a place for people to connect with nature — it also helps ensure clean air and water for current and future generations.