Investing in ecology

An earthen mound at the state park is being restored to prairie, and dirt is being used to build a dike for better fish and plant habitat.

It is a recycling project on a grand scale that ultimately might please flora and fauna as well as nature-lovers near Sterling State Park.

Contractors have constructed an earthen dike off E. Elm Ave. east of I-75 into the marshlands of the state park to help regulate water levels within the marshy areas.

“The dike will include a water-control structure — a pump and box culvert with gates — near Elm Avenue that will allow us to flood or de-water the marsh within the diked area to provide seasonal habitat for migratory shorebirds and allow for better vegetation management, including phragmites control in the marsh,” explained Glenn Palmgren, an ecologist with the stewardship unit of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division. The structure will be left open to allow fish passage into and out of the marsh whenever it is not being specifically flooded or de-watered for birds or invasive plant control.

The dike was being built with dirt from the long-time giant mound in the park that has been known for years as “the volcano” and that mound is being flattened and restored to lakeplain prairie.
The work is part of $3.42 million in projects at Sterling funded by federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants. About $2.8 million is being spent directly on construction-related costs and the rest is being used for the annual phragmites control work and fish/wildlife/wetlands monitoring.

Mr. Palmgren reports that there are no plans for a formal trail or road on the new dike, but it will be walkable by the public for fishing, bird-watching or other activities once complete.
The dike will be accessible only from the nearby River Raisin Heritage Trail, which runs from E. Elm into the park.

“Although there are currently no plans for a designated or improved trail on the new dike, pedestrians may wander off the Heritage Trail onto the dike at their leisure, if they wish, for fishing, wildlife observation, or just walking around once it is completed,” Mr. Palmgren explained.

The Sterling projects are on schedule and are expected to be substantially complete by the end of the year, assuming no significant problems arise in the months ahead, he said.

by Charles Slat
source: Monroe Evening News