Following a nearly thorough makeover, Frank Shoemaker Marsh is newly open for public access.
The makeover was to recapture the saline setting in wetland spots on the tract, said Terry Genrich, natural resources manager with Lincoln Parks and Recreation. "We worked with the Saline Wetland Conservation Partnership, reviewing historic aerial photos and other site details, to devise a plan that was implemented after a public meeting in May 2005.
Terry Genrich and Lynn Johnson discuss plans for north Lincoln saline wetlands.
Providing habitat for the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle was of primary importance. Known saline seeps were exposed, sediment was taken from saline ground, and a habitat spot was placed along the creek. During the project, salty soil sites were not disturbed, as the endangered bug is known to occur on the tract.
Managing for wildlife was also at the top of the list. Removing sediment from the wetland basins, and providing sediment berms were two of the project activities, done to enhance the wetlands. Cattails were removed with the sediment, to open up the marsh habitat, and reduce the overall extent of this vegetation. There is a greater intent to have bare, saline flats where beetles can thrive.
Two weirs were placed in Little Salt Creek, to control channel down-cutting and to provide access to both sides of the creek for equipment.
Public education will be an important, special focus at Shoemaker Marsh, Genrich said. "We would like to focus on the environmental legacy of Frank Shoemaker, and to illustrate his saline wetland history at the marsh. The overlook deck and south overlook pier will provide general access to wetland features for environmental learning and study."
A handicap accessible trail is being provided from the parking lot to the north overlook. Mown trails will extend to the south overlook pier, and westward to the pedestrian bridge over the little creek.
"The south overlook was placed at a natural point of attraction for visitors," Genrich said. "With time, we want plantings and developing vegetation to enhance the wildlife lands experience."
"Visitors can get close and personal with the wetland," added Lynn Johnson, director of Lincoln Parks and Recreation.
The remainder of the area will maintained in a primitive condition, "naturally suited for bird habitat," Genrich said.
Two known native prairies tracts - Shoemaker Point and the east point along north 27th street - were part of a restoration process, having invasive cedar trees removed. Upland areas are being replanted to prairie grasses, mostly the warm-season species big bluestem, Indian grass, little bluestem, and a lesser amount of switchgrass.
The agency is still evaluating dog access to the property.
The saline wetlands north of Lincoln, from the mouth of Little Salt Creek on Salt Creek, and northward along the waterway have been an attraction for bird watchers for more than 100 years, according to known observations. Shoemaker Marsh is part of the locale once generally referred to as North 27th Street.
A grand opening is being planned that will provide an opportunity to share results of the project and show its intended success as a saline wetland conservation project, Genrich said. The City of Lincoln managed the project, in cooperation with the Saline Partnership.
The cost was $1.2 million, with funds provided by the partnership, Nebraska Environmental Trust and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Renovation efforts ended in April, specifically to be done by the bird breeding season. It started in the summer of 2006.
The partnership looks forward to seeing the area changes now that the project is complete, Genrich said. He has already noted how seep flows have become apparent on the northwest hill and along the creek channel. “Historical photos showed where some of these seeps were and now to see them still there is encouraging for our efforts to restore these important saline wetlands,” he added.
Research interests include 1) an understanding of the hydrology of these seeps, slight flows of saline groundwater of Dakota sandstone substrata, 2) how saline vegetation changes in response to increased salinity, and 3) development of habitats and its subsequent use by wild birds.
Genrich is interested in getting information on bird use of the area, and information on species occurrence that would indicate the changing habitat.
Further funding is expected to become available for subsequent saline wetland protection projects, especially since the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle has been classified as an endangered species. Funding sources used to this point include the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Nebraska Environmental Trust, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 319 funds, Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, private landowners, Wachiska Audubon Society, Home Builders Association of Lincoln, Cooper Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Hugo and Thelma Aspegren Trust, Lana and Lon Flagtwet, the Nebraska Chapter of the Sierra Club. Also, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Saline Wetland Conservation Partnership made up of the City of Lincoln, County of Lancaster, The Nature Conservancy, Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
The Saline partnership currently has 560 acres under management, including Whitehead Saline Wetland (managed by the Lower Platte South NRD), Arbor Lake WMA (owned by the City of Lincoln and managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission), Frank Shoemaker Marsh (City of Lincoln), Little Salt Creek WMA (NGPC), and Little Salt Fork Marsh (The Nature Conservancy).
The group is planning to protect the remaining saline habitats north of Lincoln in the Little Salt Creek basin, eventually conserving another 800-1000 acres.
"We would like to save those saline wetlands remaining," Genrich said. "As we have renovated Shoemaker Marsh, neighbors owning nearby saline wetlands have approached us to discuss the future of their lands with wetlands."
Both men agree, protecting habitat of the tiger beetle will "naturally improve wetlands" as habitat for a variety of wild birds.
Web-page for the Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership