Land Management Saving the Oak Openings
A critically important natural area here in Lucas County is continually improving thanks to ongoing land management practices.
Using scientifically validated best management practices, Metroparks has restored hundreds of acres of prairies and savannas within Oak Openings Preserve to sustain its natural splendor and support habitat for over 100 state-listed rare plant and animal species that make this park their home.
The park system’s efforts to save the Oak Openings Region, which harbors one-third of all Ohio’s state-listed rare plants and animals, extend well beyond the boundaries of the preserve. Since passage of a land levy in 2002, Metroparks has acquired 2,766 acres of new Oak Openings parkland. For comparison, that’s nearly six times the size of Wildwood Preserve.
Since 2013, Oak Openings Preserve has expanded by 441 acres, including the Beach Ridge Area, site of the future Cannaley Treehouse Village. That area alone is roughly the size as Wildwood.
Since passage of the land levy, Metroparks has planted over 300 acres of new prairies and restored over 1,500 acres of degraded habitat by removing invasive plant species. This includes the restoration of over 150 acres of globally imperiled wet prairies found only in the Oak Openings and nowhere else on Earth.
Collapsing stands of pines – trees reaching the end of their natural life – were removed over the winter. These trees represent just one percent of Oak Openings Preserve’s total land area. Metroparks will continue to sustain over 200 acres of pines in areas of the preserve where they remain viable.
In 2018 alone, Metroparks planted 30,000 trees in floodplains and former wetland areas of the Oak Openings to restore wildlife habitat and protect the health of our lakes and streams.
Metroparks restoration work has received strong support through the Green Ribbon Initiative grassroots campaign to enhance and restore critical natural areas in the Oak Openings Region.
The value of restoration work is evidenced by the millions of dollars in outside funding received to complete this work from a wide spectrum of funders including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Ohio Division of Wildlife, Clean Ohio Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Ohio EPA.
Top: Two of the dominate features of the Oak Openings are in its name: oaks and openings. Oak savannas are prairies with widely spaced trees.
Below: Metroparks protects the habitat of many of Ohio’s rarest species, including the Canada frostweed shown here. This beautiful flower, classified as a threatened species, is a late spring bloomer that is joined by a host of summer meadow, prairie and savanna wildflowers.
Photos by Art Weber