The Beaver Creek Wetlands Association has a lot to be proud of.
When the association started in 1988, the corridors of outstanding wetlands along the Big and Little Beaver Creeks were part of many separate farms or private tracts. The region was proving to be a popular place to live and the farmland was beginning to be converted to residential and commercial developments which could impact the wetlands. We launched a successful public relations/outreach campaign, promoting the value of the wetlands and encouraging their protection. It worked. Numerous private and public partners and many individuals came forward, and today some 2,300 acres of new open space is now protected forever in the corridors of these streams. There are still some tracts to protect, but much of the land protection has been accomplished.
Again, with the help of our partners, more than 10 miles of hiking trails in the wetland corridor now are available on the protected lands for public use, including a mile of boardwalk. Most of these trails are fairly short loop trails at each of a dozen public access points that explore a small portion of the corridor. Most of the wetlands are actually rather inaccessible. That is not necessarily bad, but there are some disadvantages. If no one can access these areas, no one knows if problems like a new invasive species occur there, or if good things happen like a rare nesting bird species.
At the April trustees meeting, the BCWA board endorsed a plan for the next phase of the wetland protection effort. At the top of the list is the development of a plan to connect the various trail systems together. We have been meeting with our numerous partners, exploring potential linkage areas, and calculating approximate costs to implement these trail connections. I’ve got to say that it is quite exciting. There are many wild places in the corridors that are not generally seen and could inspire many new people with their beauty and diversity. Another aspect of the “vision” we are working on is an effort to increase the amount of vital land management work that gets done by doing things like contracting out projects, engaging our partners to help with more of this work, and identifying some specific projects and their management costs.
Our goal is to have a completed “vision” ready by the fall, one that is approved by the BCWA board and our various partners. If all goes well we may get started yet this year, but implementation would be a process that would likely take several years.
Dave Nolin is president of the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association.