Greene County News Report
FAIRBORN – The Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark will host a grand opening for the Discover Huffman Prairie Project 10 a.m. Tueday, July 21. The project includes a new installation of interpretive signs and plant identification markers, along with new brochures about this natural landmark that offers both historic and environmental value.
Orville Wright studied plants at the prairie, and he and his brother, Wilbur, learned to control their airplane in the adjacent flying field. Huffman Prairie also is an example of a once-abundant native habitat nearly lost to development and restored through years of conservation efforts.
Tom Crouch, senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum, will give comments, and following the presentation, Five Rivers MetroParks Director of Conservation Dave Nolin will lead a walk through the prairie. Enter through WPAFB gate 16A and follow the signs to Huffman Prairie. The event is free and open to the public.
The project was made possible by an $11,700 grant from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund and a partnership with the National Park Service and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Discover Huffman Prairie project is a collaboration between Five Rivers MetroParks, the 88th Air Base Wing Civil Engineering Group and Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
“Until now, only scant information has been available about this 112-acre conservation area,” Nolin said. “This new educational layer will help the community learn more about this special place that many rare plants, birds and insects call home. This restored prairie remnant is a fascinating place to connect with nature and experience the outdoors.”
The 112-acre Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark, which combines history and conservation, is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and adjacent to the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers tested their planes, and near Huffman MetroPark. Today, the Flying Field is part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park.
Five Rivers MetroParks has partnered with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to restore and manage the Huffman Prairie since 1988. Prior to European settlement, prairies were common in the valley of Mad River in southwest Ohio, but since the 1800s, nearly all the prairies of easter North Amrica were lost. During the past 25 years, Five Rivers MetroParks has helped with harvesting of seed, restoring degraded sections of the prairie, doing controlled burns and coordinating research projects.
Thanks to these conservation efforts, many rare plants, birds and insects now can be found at the prairie. Huffman Prairie hosts one the best displays of Ohio prairie grasses and flowers, as well as impressive populations of rare grassland birds, such as bobolinks, dickcissels and sedge wrens. Other unusual species documented on the prairie include the smooth green snake, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, and more than 200 species of butterflies and moths including one found only in this prairie. Today, the Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark is one of the largest prairie remnants in Ohio.
The site is open to the public daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. A short trail winds through the prairie. For bird watching, June is the best time to visit, and for a display of wildflowers, visit in mid to late July. For more information about the history of the prairie, visit metroparks.org/huffmanprairie.
In addition to the July 21 event, other programs have been planned to help the community experience the Huffman Prairie State Natural Landmark. Bring drinking water, sunscreen and insect repellent for those programs held at the prairie.