By Jody Miller
BATH TWP.: Tucked into the southeast corner of the Bath Nature Preserve is the Tamarack Bog, the marshy remains left by a retreating glacier more than 15,000 years ago.
“The Tamarack Bog is one of the few remaining relics of Ohio's Ice Age heritage, and preserves many uncommon, interesting, and rare plants,” said Randall Mitchell, with the Department of Biology and Integrated Bioscience Program at The University of Akron. “It's pretty inaccessible, and wild, which make it especially interesting.”
According to JeanMarie Hartman, from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University of New Jersey, the Eastern Larch or Tamarack is found in wetlands with very restricted sources of water.
“Although tamaracks are in the same plant family as pines, they look very different,” Hartman explains. “Tamaracks have very small cones and needles in bundles of more than 20, and they are not evergreen. In fact, this is the time of year when their needles turn bright yellow and fall off.”
Now, 15 years after potential restoration was first discussed, Bath has secured almost $300,000 in funds to restore and preserve the biodiversity in this significant, if rapidly disappearing, habitat.
On Oct. 21, trustees accepted the recommendation of Assistant Service Director/Park Director Mike Rorar and signed a Wetlands and Stream Mitigation Agreement with Crowland Ltd., of Independence, an agreement that will generate $292,000 in funds toward the restoration of the Tamarack Bog.
A project that Crowland Ltd. is developing in Brecksville will adversely impact 2.822 acres of wetlands on that site, according to Rorar. Working through the Army Corps of Engineers and the environmental remediation requirements of such impact, Crowland was looking for a project to fund so as to mitigate that impact. Bath just happened to be in the right place at the right time – having completed a number of successful restoration projects over the past several years and looking toward what could be done to restore the Tamarack Bog.
“Ohio has lost over 90 percent of its wetlands, and even more of its bogs and fens,” explained Mitchell. “But because wetlands help reduce flooding, conserve and purify water, and foster wildlife, losing so many can cause problems for people. With so many wetlands lost, the few that remain are especially important.”
And they are important because they protect several species that are on the state endangered list, Mitchell said, adding that if those particular plants at the Tamarack Bog were to die out, the danger of their global extinction would be increased.
“There are only eight mature tamarack trees left in the bog and no saplings,” Mitchell said. “Without help from Bath Township's restoration, this stand of trees will probably die out within 50-100 years. So, one of the main goals of the restoration is to encourage more tamarack trees to establish themselves so they can replace the existing trees over time.”
The work to restore the Tamarack Bog will be funded entirely by Crowland with its $292,000 payment, said Rorar. Those funds include $122,254 toward the restoration work itself on the bog, work that will require the removal of exotic species and non-bog species, clearing plot areas and introducing native peatland plant species. Bath Township will receive $87,038 to cover the costs of a conservation easement, at $22,000; to reimburse the township $12,490 for work already performed on the site; and $52,548 for constructing a boardwalk through the bog by February.
“The boardwalk will not only provide safe access through the bog for our residents but protect the environmental integrity of the site as well, both for observation and study,” said Rorar.
“We are especially excited about plans to include a public-access boardwalk in the restoration,” said Mitchell.
The remaining $82,708 of the payment will fund 10 years of monitoring and research by UA, which is already on site at the BNP, conducting research and studies through the Dr. Paul E. Martin Center for Field Studies and Environmental Education.
According to Mitchell, very little is known about restoring bogs, especially in the Midwest.
“The University of Akron is working closely with Bath Township, Ohio EPA, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and environmental professionals to very carefully monitor this innovative restoration project,” said Mitchell. “We hope that what we learn from this restoration will be helpful in guiding other bog restorations in the region.”
Mitchell talked about planned projects enlisting the involvement of Bath residents, including a way for the public to participate in a repeat-photography database.
“By contributing photos from specific 'photo stations' on the boardwalk to a website via smartphones, citizens will be able to help improve the scientific monitoring data required to evaluate progress, and hopefully realize a more direct connection to the site,” Mitchell said. “The photos will be available online – perhaps even re-assembled as a time-lapse movie – that can make the slow-motion pace of bog recovery a little more lively.