Although the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes is well-known for its picturesque cattail-filled marsh, the plant is actually an invasive species. It was somehow introduced here in the 1970s, and has been multiplying wildly ever since.
In recent years, the aggressive species has established such a dominant presence here that it has crowded out many other plants. The result has been a less diverse ecosystem in the marsh, including fewer species of birds and other animals.
Now, thanks for a $78,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nature Center is in the midst of a two-year project to remove the cattails from the marsh and return it to greater ecological health. This spring, Nature Center staff and volunteers planted some 3,000 grasses and wildflowers, 200 shrubs and 20 large trees, all of which are native to Northeast Ohio.
To kill the hardy, fast-spreading cattail plants, a variety of treatments were used, including cutting, hand-pulling and spraying with a low-percentage herbicide.
More than 25,000 people visit the Nature Center annually. Staff here are using the marsh restoration as an opportunity to highlight the problem of invasive species in Ohio, the importance of preservation and what ordinary citizens can do.
The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes was founded in 1966 as the result of a grassroots community effort to preserve the Shaker Heights park lands from becoming the route for a new freeway connecting the east side to downtown. Today, it is recognized as a model urban environmental resource center.
Fresh Water Cleveland, 8/18/11