As part of Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative, students will have the unique opportunity to learn about ecology and water quality at a restored wetland in northwest Ohio. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) joined the Otsego Local School District and the Black Swamp Conservancy for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the Otsego Schools’ Fox-Shank Living Laboratory Project.
“This project represents a vital component of H2Ohio,” said Governor DeWine. “We’re working not only to improve water quality but also to foster the growth of future conservation leaders. This living laboratory will teach young people how natural habitats and agriculture can work together to provide clean drinking water.”
ODNR Director Mary Mertz joins Otsego Schools and Black Swamp Conservancy for a ribbon cutting at the new wetland.
The project restored 16 acres of previously farmed land in Wood County. The result boasts two and a half acres of riparian, or wooded, habitat and eight acres of wetland habitat. The wetland will help capture runoff, including the nutrients that fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms, within the 13 square miles of watershed.
“As the governor’s H2Ohio Initiative expands, so too does ODNR’s vision for creative and bold projects,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “This area is now a place for students to walk, bird, and learn about the importance of water quality.”
The H2Ohio Initiative is approaching the four-year mark. In that time, ODNR has successfully restored 15,000 acres of wetland and other water resources. Through these projects, the initiative has filtered more than 110,000 acres of watershed along with the planting of 85,000 trees. These projects are possible through partnerships with local groups, such as the Black Swamp Conservancy which purchased the land.
“This was a special project,” Black Swamp Conservancy Executive Director Rob Krain said. “Not only were we able to restore the property for water quality and wildlife habitat benefits—we also developed our restoration design in concert with the Otsego School District so that it will serve as a living laboratory for students – today and for generations to come.”
Otsego Local Schools students explain what they’ve learned at the new Otsego Schools Fox-Shank Living Laboratory.
Black Swamp Conservancy worked with Otsego Local Schools to restore the previously farmed area into a wetland and the conservancy plans to transfer the site to the district.
“At Otsego, we firmly believe in the power of experiential learning and the immeasurable benefits it offers to our students,” Otsego Local Schools Superintendent Kevin O’Shea said. “The opportunity to have access to such a vast and diverse ecosystem will greatly enrich their educational experience, allowing them to engage with nature in a hands-on and immersive manner.”
The final cost of the project was $443,000.
Governor Mike DeWine created H2Ohio in 2019 as a comprehensive, data-driven approach to combatting algal blooms, enhancing water quality, and improving water infrastructure over the long term. H2Ohio operates in partnership between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. The initiative focuses on encouraging agricultural best management practices, restoring, and enhancing wetlands, upgrading outdated water infrastructure, and replacing lead pipes. For more information on the H2Ohio initiative, visit h2.ohio.gov.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.