Killbuck Watershed Land Trust plans to rejuvenate Crane Swamp

Killbuck Watershed Land Trust plans to rejuvenate Crane Swamp

The Killbuck Watershed Land Trust has created many projects to save the natural swampland around Wayne and Holmes counties including work at Oxbow Pond. The newest endeavor will be to shore up the area of Crane Swamp.


As recipients of the recent $1.17 million H2Ohio Statewide Wetland Grant, the members of the Killbuck Watershed Land Trust are eager to get started on the process of revitalizing and fixing many of the issues that area of Killbuck Swamp Preserve is currently facing.

With the grant in place, the KWLT team is preparing for a long and arduous amount of work on the wetland area, but it is work that is very necessary as they lay out the steps and stages that will take place over the next two-plus years.

The KWLT has been quite active in purchasing and preserving wetlands in Holmes, Wayne and surrounding counties, and this marks another victory for its efforts.

As the group continues to purchase and preserve wetlands, one of the first steps they have enjoyed is the project of naming each.

Randy Carmel, KWLT president and resident naturalist, said that is always a fun part of the exercise, but the really important work comes later.

Names include Turtle Pond, the wetland west of Killbuck; Spatter Dot Ponds, south of Killbuck along state Route 60 named for the water lily that inhabits the area; Crane Swamp, named after the sandhill cranes that frequent the area in Wayne and Holmes; and Bowfin Bottom, named after the type of fish that survive in the low-oxygen wetlands.

“These fish burrow into the mud under the ice during winter and can actually get enough oxygen to survive, one of the few fish that can survive over the winter in these wetlands here,” Carmel said.

Crane Swamp is the focus of the new grant, and Carmel said there is much work to be done.

The new grant will provide funds for the group to work through the preliminary stages of gaining permits, designing engineer work and developing their vision.

Carmel said over the next six months to one year, the KWLT hopes to finalize all of those steps and physically break ground on the project in 2025.

Having already removed two old oil wells, Carmel said the goal is to eventually eliminate field tile for drainage ditches and create three large pools. They also hope to rid the area of the invasive reed canary grass that has overpopulated the area and done some damage.

“We want to introduce more wetland plant communities to drown out that unwanted grass,” Carmel said. “And the three pools will hold water overflow, and we will plug the old drainage ditches so water that settles there can’t simply return to the creek.”

There is an old railroad bed on the property that is preventing water from freely moving across the flood plain, so the KWLT will place culverts in, allowing the water to freely exchange on both sides, making it a more natural habitat while allowing it to serve as a natural flood plain.

In addition, the group plans to plant trees along the corridor, which also will help slow the flow of water.

They also will build levee breaks, so when the Killbuck Creek rises, it can flow out onto these protected lands, reducing flooding downstream.

The KWLT also will restore the lower 2,000 feet of creek.

“Basically, we are going to put the creek back the way it was naturally,” Carmel said. “There is a ditch between the two properties, and we are going to move the water flow back to the Lower Laurel Creek that was eliminated about 100 years ago. That will allow the water to remain on the landscape a little longer so we can reap the benefits of it.”

The group hopes to have the preserve open to the public in late 2025 or early 2026.

In opening the area to the public, Carmel said they envision the abandoned railroad grade becoming a trail corridor for outdoor enthusiasts. While unpaved, it would provide a fine walkway for those interested in exploring natural wildlife habitats, and Carmel said they are planning on building several observation points where people can enjoy the flora and fauna of Crane Swamp.

“It’s going to be a place where people can quietly observe nature, a really peaceful place removed from the world,” Carmel said.

Once completed, Crane Swamp will serve the ultimate purpose of giving water a safe place to go when the Killbuck Creek rises, a much too common occurrence, while enhancing some wildlife refuge.

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