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photos by Cindy Cornwell Little River Wetlands Project members take a surveying walk at Eagle Marsh on Saturday, March 12, 2005. (l-r) Sam Schwartz-original board member, Dennis Reichard-board member and contract photographer for Smithsonian, Paul McAfee-original board member and Executive Director, Tom Maher-member, and Richard Poor-original board member and President.Little River Wetlands Project, Inc., a 501c(3) non-profit organization, has recently opened an office at 2403 Fairoak Drive in Waynedale. Their mission is: "An innovative partnership together with public and private organizations dedicated to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the community through wetlands restoration, preservation and educational programs."

Their goal is to reclaim the floodplain land that was once part of the historic marsh that at one time existed between Allen and Huntington counties. Indiana has lost more than 85% of our existing wetlands that were present in 1800. Wetlands benefit communities in promoting water quality, flood control, wildlife habitat, and recreational and educational opportunities.

Organized in 1990, and at present the Little River Wetlands Project owns and has restored approximately 200 acres on and near Aboite Road. This has been accomplished through fund-raising, and participation in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program, and restoration done by the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). Plantings on this land will be done, during Spring and Summer 2005, weather permitting.

Other programs include water testing, done four times a year on five sites in our focus area, with data being submitted to Hoosier Riverwatch. The group sponsors a river and road cleanup each spring, with a number of high school students from Homestead and Elmhurst participating. They also participate in the Regional Science Fair by sponsoring awards and judging of High School, Middle School, and Elementary science projects that relate to wetlands. In the past they have also sponsored lecture series held at Fox Island County Park, usually during the winter.

Recently they have obtained a purchase agreement to buy 680 acres of floodplain agricultural land along Engle Road, just west and south of the existing National Serv-All wetland.

Wetlands Reserve Project will contribute towards the purchase price and the Nature Conservancy has dedicated $250,000. However, they still need to raise about $350,000 towards the purchase, which needs to be finalized by May 31, 2005. Additional money will be needed for maintenance and other after-purchase costs. If restoration on this can be completed this will make about a 1400-acre natural area together with the existing National Serv-All wetland and Fox Island.

The Little River Wetlands Project board meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month except July, 7:30 pm at the office. Interested citizens are welcome to attend.
Memberships start at $10 per individual, $15 family.

Paul McAfee is the director and will be in the office most times through the week 8am to 5pm. The phone number is: 260.478.2515. Web site: www.lriver.org or email: lriver3@ juno.com.


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