Nature lovers of all ages turned out Saturday for the opening of the Black Swamp Conservancy’s newest nature preserve in the county. Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress
Nature lovers of all ages turned out Saturday for the opening of the Black Swamp Conservancy’s newest nature preserve in the county. Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress
By JUDY WELLS

Feature Writer

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – Nearly two dozen nature enthusiasts showed up Saturday for a look at the Black Swamp Conservancy’s newest preserve, located on County Road 197.

Saturday, June 8, was the first time the public was allowed on the Little Auglaize Wildlife Reserve property since its purchase by the Conservancy.

This rare natural habitat, located in the southern part of the county, features about a mile and a half of frontage along the Little Auglaize River, two wetlands, native plant and tree species and other wildlife habitats.

“This event is designed to introduce neighbors and the community to the Reserve,” said Melanie Coulter, conservation manager of the Conservancy. “This is the second Conservancy-owned property in the county, the other being Forrest Woods near Cecil. We’re excited to make improvements to this property and to eventually allow the public to visit it often.”

For now, she said, visitors will need a permit to enter the property.

Former property owners, Brad and Ann Dysinger, who constructed the wetlands several years ago, led guided walks and explained some of the history of the property.

“Most of the property was farmed just 30 years ago,” Brad said. “We started restoring it to its natural state in the 1990s. We’d been told the land wouldn’t hold water and we didn’t qualify for government funding, so I hired a dozer and had the wetlands dug. I knew which areas would hold water because I’d been watching it for years. And look at it now. This particular wetland right here is about seven acres and all the trees and plants around it are natural.”

Purchased by Conservancy earlier this year, the 226-acre property has been designated a sensitive-species area. The property is home to a variety of wildlife species, including deer, pheasants, chorus frogs, painted turtles, river otters, and Indiana bats, a federally endangered species.

During initial surveys by Black Swamp staff members earlier this spring, 48 species of birds were identified.

In its long-range plan to restore the area to its natural state, the Conservancy plans to eradicate invasive species from the property.

“We’ll start with the teasel,” commented Coulter. “That will be a huge undertaking, but we’ve done it before on some of our other properties. We hope to increase habitat for other plant and wildlife species already using the property and for migratory birds and other locally important species.

“Eventually, we plan to increase the amount of forested area on the property to over 100 acres,” Coulter continued. “This will enhance the wetland area along the river, filtering the water entering there and flowing into the Maumee River and Western Lake Erie.”

Coulter said there are future plans to create public outdoor recreation opportunities, such as hiking trails (including further guided nature walks), birding, fishing, kayaking, hunting and other non-intensive activities that will showcase the beauty of this spot along the river.

The Black Swamp Conservancy takes direct action to permanently preserve northwest Ohio’s natural habitats and family farms for the benefit of future generations. The Little Auglaize Wildlife Reserve was purchased with funds from the Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation Fund and The Conservation Fund’s Ohio Forested Habitat Fund.

For more information on the Conservancy, visit them at BlackSwamp.org.