(Update from press conference on April 22)
The Little River Wetland project, which is located just north of Fox Island Nature Preserve on Yohne Road, continues to move forward in its effort to secure 680-acres of wetland.
Thirty thousand years ago, this same area was home to the Wisconsin Glacier. When the glacier receded it left a moraine, which resulted in a low swampy area between Fort Wayne and Roanoke. The 4 x 9 mile marshy prairie yielded the shortest portage of all North American Navigable Waters. For hundreds of years Indian traders and guides brought travelers from Central Canada through Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, up the Maumee, the St. Mary's through this portage, then down the Wabash and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.
Over the years this area has been drained and farmed. It is the purpose of the Little River Wetlands Project to restore this area to its original condition of a marshy prairie.
The purchase price of the 680 acres is $1.8 million. The Federal Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will provide $1.2 million toward the purchase price. The Nature Conservancy, another partner in the project, will be fundraising for $250,000 and the Little River Wetlands Project will fundraise the remaining $350,000. An additional $300,000 for closing and an endowment for future stewardship of the property will be needed. The closing is May 31, 2005.
"This project will have a significant impact on flood control, water quality and wildlife habitat in Allen County and downstream to the Wabash River," said Paul McAfee, director for the Little River Wetlands Project. "It will provide wonderful opportunities for walking, birding, photography and nature study."
Over 84% of Indiana's wetlands have been drained. Many species of plants and animals dependant upon wetlands to survive are now endangered due to habitat loss. Restoring significant marsh areas will provide a home for these endangered species, as well as, more common ones. This land is also in position to be a part of the connection of the Fort Wayne River Greenway to Aboite New Trails.
Donations to the Little River Wetland Project may be mailed to: 2403 Fairoak Drive, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46809. This is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.