THE HISTORY OF SAUERMAN WOODS
In pre-settlement times, Sauerman Woods was a Bur Oak Savanna. In simplistic terms, a mid-western savanna is a prairie with trees growing in it. Throughout the pre-settlement time period, native American tribes periodically set fires in the grass of the savanna. This was done to attract wild game, which preferred to eat plants that grew in the fertile soil that resulted from fires. Through observing areas that burned by natural occurrences, such as lightning, the native Americans learned that burning the savanna produced a well-balanced diet for the animals as well as a dependable and convenient hunting ground for the tribe.
1800 -- 1834
The early settlers utilized the savanna in much the same way travelers of today use roadside rest stops. The Savanna�s trees provided shelter from the blistering heat of Indiana�s vast, tall-grass prairies. The shorter grasses and wild flowers of the savanna provided an open, park-like area where travelers could stop and rest along their journey.
In the early 1800s, settlers began taking up residence in Crown Point. Settlers who grazed cattle, often adopted the native American�s practice of periodically burning the land in order to provide better grazing grounds for cows.
1835 -- 1965
In 1854, Nicholas Sauerman purchased the savanna and the surrounding prairie land from a man named Clark. Local history records indicate that Clark was probably Judge William Clark or was a close relative of Judge William Clark, who settled in Crown Point in 1835.
Sauerman found < a href="http://commonwealthstudents.org/">commonwealthstudents.org the land more attractive than other parcels that were available because Clark had built a split-rail fence around the property. This would indicate that Clark grazed cattle on the land.
Sauerman also grazed cattle on the land, and the grazing practice continued until 1964 or 1965.
1965 -- 1996
Left with nonative Americans to set fires, and no hungry cows to graze the land, the savanna became like a garden without a gardener. The inevitable result was weeds.
The understory of the savanna gradually became overgrown with weedy native plant species and invasive exotic plant species.
The exotic plant species originated in Europe, and were brought into the US by early European settlers. These aggressive foreign plants took root and multiplied in the savanna.
This encroachment resulted in the extermination of native savanna grasses and wild flowers that once grew beneath the oaks. The native flowers and grasses were replaced by a dense thicket of woody European shrubs. Such was the fate of savannas throughout the mid-west. Today, mid-western savannas are a virtually extinct ecosystem.
In 1966, Charles Sauerman, the great grandson of Nicholas Sauerman, donated 35.3 acres of his property to the city of Crown Point as park land. The dominant portion of the park was the oak savanna, and it was named Sauerman Woods City Park.
During the early '70s, a skating pond was established in the park. A small area was excavated, and water was diverted from a nearby natural waterway into the man-made pond. A drain was built into the pond so that the water could be drained off during the summer months to avoid the creation of a nesting place for mosquitoes.
The water that filled the skating pond carried silt, and over the years, the built-in drainage of the pond became clogged with silt and no longer functioned as a drain.
At some point, the city abandoned the practice of using the pond as a skating rink. Over time, the vegetation that took root in the silt of the pond transformed the skating pond into a marsh�a specific type of wetland.
In addition to the marsh, another type of wetland called a wooded swamp exists within Sauerman Woods. This woodland wetland was created by the natural drainage of the land, and is currently being utilized to drain storm water from a nearby subdivision.
In 1996, it was determined that the invasive exotic plants should be removed from Sauerman Woods City Park, and that the savanna should be restored to its original native state. Additionally, it was decided that Sauerman Woods City Park would serve as an educational nature facility. The wetlands and savanna will provide a fertile atmosphere for ecological educational endeavors.
STUDY AREA PROFILE
Sauerman Woods is 35.3 acres. The park is located in Crown Point, Indiana, east of HWY 55,off of South Street, next door to Hub Pool. The area contains three distinct ecosystems: Bur Oak Savanna, Marsh, and Wooded Swamp.
BUR OAK SAVANNA
The Savanna makes up the predominant portion of the woods. The Savanna is highly degraded, and is better described as Former Bur Oak Savanna. The Savanna ecosystem was degraded by the invasion of weedy native and invasive exotic species that developed following the cessation of cattle grazing in the late 1960s.
The soils include: BIA - Blount silt loam, 0 to 2 percent slopes. The soil runoff is slow, and the erosion hazard is slight. MuB -Morley silt loam, 2 to 6 percent slopes. This soil is along drainage-ways and streams or on small knolls. The soil has only moderate limitations. Pc - Pewamo silty clay loam, 0 to 2 percent slopes. This soil is nearly depressional, and it occupies swales, narrow drainage-ways, and broad flats. Wetness is the major limitation; runoff is very slow or ponded in the more nearly level areas.
The overstory crown density appears to be around 70% of the area.
Trees: Black Oak, White Oak, Bur Oak, Shagbark Hickory, Black Cherry, Black Locust, Boxelder, Cottonwood, Black Walnut, Mulberry.
Shrubs: Hazelnut, Multiflora Rose, Blackberry, Raspberry, Gray Dogwood, Viburnums, Bush Honeysuckle, Blue Fruit Dogwood, Choke Cherry.
Other plants: Wild Grape, Calico Aster, Blazing Star, Heal-all, Poison Ivy, Jewel Weed, Fleabane, Enchanter Nightshade, Whitegrass, Woodland Sedge, Avens, Woodland Knotweed, Beardtongue, Virginia Creeper, Wild Goldenrod.
In the early '70s, a skating pond was established in the park. A small area just east of the present
playground was excavated, and water was diverted from a nearby natural waterway into the man-made pond. (See illustration, Appendix 3, page 1) A drain was built into the pond so that the water could be drained off during the summer months to avoid the creation of a nesting place for mosquitoes.
The water that filled the skating pond carried silt, and over the years, the built-in drainage of the pond became clogged with silt and no longer functioned as a drain.
At some point, the city abandoned the practice of using the pond as a skating rink. Over time, the vegetation that took root in the silt of the pond transformed the skating pond into a marsh.
Dominant emergent plants: Sedges (Carex species), Broad-leaved Cattail (Typha latifolia), Water Plantain (Alisma subcordatum), and soft-stem or hard-stem Bullrush (Scirpus actutus or Scirpus validus). Two species of Spike rush (Eleocharis) are also present.
Obligate wetland life: Tadpoles, frogs, damselflies, underwater snail species, and yellow-green algae.
In addition to the marsh, another type of wetland called a wooded swamp exists in a natural basin just east of the marsh, within the Bur Oak Savanna. (See illustration, Appendix 3, page 1) This wooded wetland was created by the natural drainage of the land, and is currently being utilized to drain storm water from a nearby subdivision. Recommendations for improvement to the streams that feed these two wetlands are referenced in the Drainage Improvement Plan section of this document.
Trees: Ash, Silver Maple, Hickory, Bur Oaks.
During the 1800s, the predominant portion of Sauerman Woods was a Bur Oak Savanna. To the casual observer, a mid-western savanna looks like a prairie that has bur oak, hickory and walnut trees growing in it. A diverse carpet of wild flowers and grass characteristically grows beneath the trees of a savanna. Today, savannas have nearly vanished from Indiana's landscape.
The Savanna ecosystem in Sauerman Woods has been seriously compromised by the two factors: The absence of fires once set by native Americans, and the cessation of cattle grazing on the land. After the fires stopped and the livestock left, Sauerman Woods, like so many other Indiana savannas, became overgrown with invasive exotic plant species.
Approximately, 25% of Indiana's plant species are exotic (non-native) species. Exotic species originate in foreign countries, but are carried over oceans, and brought into the United States in various ways. Exotic species have unnaturally entered the US since the time of the early Northern European Settlers.
Invasive exotics pose a serious threat to the survival of Sauerman Woods' native plant life, and to native plant life throughout the State of Indiana. These foreign species take root in our native ecosystems (especially those disturbed by man), and kill off the native species.
Because many exotics are adapted to a colder European climate, invasive exotics are "up and running" in early spring when most native species lie in wait of warmer weather. This characteristic gives invasive exotics a head start on most native species which can not compete and consequently die out. In addition, some exotics have no natural enemies or controls. They simply take root, and aggressively choke off and overshadow the native plants.
It must be stressed that the invasion of foreign plants in native habitats is NOT a natural occurrence. Nature did not bring these non-native species over oceans and into our native ecosystems -- Man did. Invasive exotic take-takeovers of native habitats are about as natural as air pollution, water contamination, and holes in the ozone layer.
THE CHAIN OF LIFE
When a native plant species dies out, the native wildlife that depends on that plant for food moves on to "greener pastures." Further, many native plants that thrive in savannas produce seeds which depend on wildlife for propagation -- i.e., burrs, berries, and nuts. Consequently, certain types of wildlife move out, and certain types of native seeds cease to be properly planted by birds and animals.
Clearly, if the Savanna of Sauerman Woods is to be restored, three things must occur:
1. Invasive exotics, which currently dominate the area, must first be removed.
2. A diverse, balanced mixture of native savanna species must be reinstated.
3. The native wildlife must return.
Invasive Species Identification
The most threatening invasive species found in Sauerman Woods are: Shrub Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, and Viburnums. These woody plants currently dominate the understory in a dense thicket.
In order to restore the native grasses and wildflowers that once dominated the floor of Sauerman Woods' Savanna, this dense thicket must first be removed.
Black locust and mulberry trees should also be removed if the savanna is to be properly restored.
Invasive Species Eradication
In order to effectively eradicate the woody species of invasive plants from Sauerman Woods, the following removal methods can be employed:
A natural method is girdling. Girdling is done by cutting a ring around the trunk or stem, and removing the bark and cambium within the ring. This interrupts the flow of water and nutrients within the plant, and the plant dies -- roots and all. After the plant is dead, it must be removed, either by hand-cutting or mechanical device, and the debris must be removed from the site.
Another technique is the use of herbicide. This method involves cutting down shrubs or trees, by hand or mechanical device, and applying herbicide to the remaining trunks, in order to kill the roots. Extreme caution must be used with this method because any shrubs that are cut, but not chemically killed, will grow back with a vengeance. After cutting, all brush must be removed from the site, placed in a pile, and burned. This is done to clear the site of debris, and destroy seeds.
Experiences from previous restoration projects conducted in savanna habitats show that used alone, girdling, herbicide, and cutting will not effectively destroy the invasive exotic population in Sauerman Woods. In order to successfully eradicate the invasive exotics, controlled fire should be used in conjunction with either of the above methods.
Use of Fire
Prescribed fires, also called controlled burns, are cool-burning, low intensity, ground fires that are commonly used to restore natural areas throughout Indiana and other mid-western states. (See photograph, next page)
It must be understood that natural areas, such as prairies and savannas, are fire-dependent ecosystems. In other words, they naturally NEED fire in order to properly thrive. Without fire, there can be no savanna. In fact, it is the LACK of fire that has caused the degradation of Sauerman Woods' Savanna.
Prescribed fires are a land management tool that was originally employed by native Americans, who depended on wild game for food. The native Americans discovered that wild animals are more attracted to prairies and savannas after carefully controlled, cool burning fires were set in these areas.
The native Americans also discovered that controlled burning of such areas reduced the occurrence of intensely hot, uncontrollable wildfires ignited by nature.
Today, prescribed fire is being used to attract wildlife, reduce wildfires, and to destroy invasive exotic plants in natural areas throughout the world.
Benefits of Fire
Fire is a very effective tool against non-native plants because they are up and growing while most native plants are dormant. So, while a controlled burn in early spring destroys the exotic species, the gentle warmth produced by the fire actually stimulates the growth of the native species.
Fire also releases nutrients trapped in dead, organic matter that the native plants need in order to grow. Because it reduces competition, fire also allows existing trees to grow larger. It also leaves snags that provide nesting spots for woodpeckers, and other birds
In addition, many native plants are fire tolerant due to deep-running root structures. So, even if some native plants burn, they will eventually return again.
It should be noted that native plants are fire tolerant for a very good reason. Nature tends to provide for itself, and the fact is that fire is a very natural occurrence in a savanna. In an overgrown, disfigured savanna, such as Sauerman Woods, a wildfire would be devastating.
Wild Fire Prevention
Smokey Bear said, "Only YOU can prevent a forest fire." Smokey was right, too. The woody, exotic plants that have invaded the understory of Sauerman Woods create a very dangerous arrangement of forest fire fuel.
Unlike a prescribed fire, in which woody fuel is removed and controlled, a spontaneous wildfire could burn vertically. A vertical fire begins in the litter on the ground, then spreads to the bushes, up the small trees, and into the crown. That is the kind of high-intensity fire that chars the woods, kills wildlife, and could spread to the roof of a nearby home.
As leaves , branches and dead trees continue to fall, and fuel continues to build within the woody thicket of Sauerman Woods, there is no question that the woods will eventually catch fire, either by accident, or natural causes. The only real question is when and how it will burn.
If the fuel is removed, and carefully controlled fires are conducted now, the outbreak of a life threatening wildfire in the future can be averted. This is why prescribed fire is becoming commomly used as a wildfire prevention technique throughout the US. To employ fire as a useful friend now, is more logical than confronting it as an enemy, later.
In order to establish a sound prescribed burning program for Sauerman Woods it is recommended that the city hire a professional consulting forester. A list of recommended consulting foresters is provided in Appendix 1 of this document. Any consulting forester hired by the city should be able to provide certificates of State Approved fire training, and client references from previous prescribed fires conducted in savannas.
A consulting forester is an independent contractor, who has undergone extensive training in the area of prescribed burning and other forest management techniques. A consulting forester can establish a working prescribed burning plan for Sauerman Woods as well as conduct and contain the fire and ensure that it is completely extinguished.
It is important to understand that before any prescribed fires are set in Sauerman Woods, several atmospheric conditions (such as temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction) must be measured. If conditions are not ideal for conducting a safe fire, the consulting forester will not conduct the fire until such time as conditions are safe.
In addition, fire breaks must also be created to ensure that the fire does not get out of control. Although a handicapped accessible walking path around the perimeter of the park would probably serve as a good fire break between the woods and neighboring subdivisions, additional fire breaks of a more temporary nature will probably be needed as well.
A consulting forester uses computer generated information to determine what is needed for a successful burn at a specific site.
It is also recommended that certain members of the Crown Point Fire Department be appointed to attend fire suppression training courses offered by the Indiana Division of Forestry, Fire Management Section. The cost of these courses is extremely nominal, and they give firefighters hands-on training in the area of wildland fire suppression.
It is recommended that our firefighters take advantage of this training opportunity for two reasons:
1. It is important that our fire department be able to effectively extinguish fires that may spontaneously erupt in Sauerman Woods, whether ignited by nature or accident.
2. It is important that our fire department be able to assist the consulting forester in quickly extinguishing any prescribed fires in Sauerman Woods should wind conditions suddenly change.
An application form and a description of courses offered to firefighters by the Division of Forestry can be found in Appendix 1 of this document.
In addition, it is advisable that volunteers from the public and/or park department personnel be encouraged to receive Basic Prescribed Fire Training and Advanced Prescribed Fire Training courses. These courses are also offered by the Division of Forestry at no charge. An application form and course descriptions can be found in Appendix 1 of this document.
If trained volunteers -- i.e., Ignition Bosses and Prescribed Fire Managers are able to assist the consulting forester, the overall cost of the restoration project will be greatly reduced, and community commitment to the project will be increased.
It is important to understand that it will take several years to complete the restoration of Sauerman Woods. This is due to many factors. One of these factors is that prescribed burning must be conducted on only one section of the property at a time. The entire woods cannot be burned at once.
In order to protect the safety of wildlife, safe, unburned areas must be available to the animals. (Wildlife will return to the burned area almost immediately after the prescribed fire is out.)
Also, a wide-scale burn would nearly destroy the ecosystem in regard to insects and other life forms. So, Sauerman Woods must be divided into sections, and only one section should be burned at a time.
Further, each section of the woods will require additional burnings as well as other treatments, such as girdling or cutting and herbiciding, in order to effectively eradicate invasive exotics and encourage native species. A consulting forester can determine which sections should be burned and the order in which each section should be burned, as well as any other eradication techniques that should be used.
Also, prescribed burning must be done only during periods of early spring and late fall. (Preferably late fall because some savanna plants come up as early as March.)
State issued burning permits limit the number of days burning is allowed in each season. If weather conditions and other factors are not conducive to a safe and successful prescribed burn within the permit's limited time frame, the burning must be delayed until the following burning season.
Before any prescribed fires are conducted in Sauerman Woods, the city must first obtain the above-mentioned burning permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The burning permit is required by law. The state permit process can take months, and this time period should be factored in when determining a schedule for conducting prescribed fires. A burning permit application form from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management can be located in Appendix 1 of this document.
Native Plant Restoration
Because the seed bank in Sauerman Woods is so seriously depleted, it will be necessary to acquire native seeds from an outside source in order to restore the Savanna ecosystem.
Native seeds can be purchased, or they can be collected from other local, clay soil, woodland areas. Commonly available wildflower seed mixes should NEVER be used in Sauerman Woods because they contain non-native seeds and compromise restoration efforts. A list of recommended nurseries from which native seeds can be purchased is located in Appendix 2 of this document.
If seeds are collected, it is important that the individuals doing the collecting know how to identify native plants. Plants are more easily identified during the flowering stage, but seeds do not appear until after the flowers die. Therefore it may be wise to locate native plants during the flowering season, and return later for seed collection.
Seeds should only be collected from fairly secure and pristine sites. Seeds should NEVER be collected from nature preserves or private property unless permission has first been given. In order to ensure local genotypes, seeds should only be collected from within a 50 mile radius of Sauerman Woods.
Seeds should be planted immediately after being harvested or within six months thereafter. If necessary, seeds can be stored over the winter in a cold, dry, rodent-proof area. Seeds stored over the winter must be exposed to freezing temperatures in order to germinate.
Planting should be done in soil that is as weed-free as possible to minimize competition, and soil beds should be firm, not finely worked. Prescribed fire areas should be seeded promptly after burning has occured.
Seeds can be planted by broadcast method, but preferably the drill method should be used. Special drills can be rented from Quail Unlimited.
Most seeds should be planted at a depth of 1/4". Seeds planted more than 1/2" deep will not germinate. It takes four to eight pounds of native seeds to properly seed a 210'x 210' area.
Proper care during the seedlings' period of establishment is essential for the success of the plants. Fertilizers should not be used. Weeds should be cut several times during the summer, and clippings should be removed if so thick as to smother the native seedlings. In drought conditions, seedlings should be watered.
It is recommended that the following native species be restored to the savanna areas of Sauerman Woods: Black-eyed Susan, Woodland Sunflower, Purple Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium), Wingstem, Wild Bergamot, Bottlebrush grass, Virginian Wild Rye, Wood Reed grass, Woodland Brome grass, Beardtongue, Blue-stem Goldenrod, Elm-leafed Goldenrod, Broad-leaved or Zig-Zag Goldenrod, Veiny Pea, Two-flowered Cynthia, Short's Aster, Heart-leafed Aster, Arrow-leafed Aster, Calico Aster, Smooth Aster, Yellow Coneflower, Pointed Tick Trefoil, White Snakeroot, Common Oak Sedge, Starry Campion, Common Spiderwort, Germander, Woodland Phlonx, Wild Columbine, Virginia Waterleaf, Green Dragon, Jack-in the-Pulpit, Serviceberry, Bladdernut, Hawthorne, and Iowa crab.
Recommended sources for the purchase of native seeds and a copy of the above listed plant species can be found in Appendix 2 of this document.
A marsh is a type of wetland that can be identified by the presence of standing water for at least part of the growing season. Water levels in a marsh can fluctuate from wet to dry periods. A marsh has vegetation consisting of emergent plants, such as cattails, rushes, pond weeds, lily pads, and arrowhead.
The creation of the marsh in Sauerman Woods City Park began in the early '70s, when a skating pond was established in the park. A small area was excavated, and water was diverted from a nearby natural waterway into the man-made pond. A drain was built into the pond so that the water could be drained off during the summer months to avoid the creation of a nesting place for mosquitoes. (See illustration in Appendix 3)
The water that filled the skating pond carried silt, and over the years, the built-in drainage of the pond became clogged with silt and no longer functioned as a drain. (See illustration on next page)
At some point, the city abandoned the practice of using the pond as a skating rink. Over time, the vegetation that took root in the silt of the pond transformed the skating pond into a marsh.
The dominant emergent plants in Sauerman Woods Marsh are: Sedges (Carex species), Broad-leaved Cattail (Typha latifolia), Water Plantain (Alisma subcordatum), and soft-stem or hard-stem Bullrush (Scirpus actutus or Scirpus validus). Two species of Spike rush (Eleocharis) are also present.
Obligate Wetland life in the marsh includes: Tadpoles, frogs, damselflies, underwater snail species, and yellow-green algae.
THE WOODED SWAMP
In addition to the marsh, another type of wetland called a Wooded Swamp exists in a natural basin, just east of the marsh, within the Bur Oak Savanna. (See Appendix 3)
A wooded swamp is a wetland covered with trees or shrubs. (See photograph on next page) There are two general kinds of wooded swamps found in the Great Lakes Region: Hardwood Swamps and Conifer Swamps.
The type of wooded swamp existing within Sauerman Woods is a Hardwood Swamp. Hardwood swamps typically contain Silver Maple, Ash, Willow, Birch, and Alder.
The wooded swamp in Sauerman Woods was created by the natural drainage of the land, and is currently being utilized to drain storm water from a nearby subdivision.
the trees in this Wooded Swamp are: Ash, Silver Maple, Hickory, and dying Bur Oaks.
DRAINAGE IMPROVEMENT PLAN
It is imperative that the drainage system be significantly improved. During heavy rains, water "pools" in the woods and the surrounding area. The ideal situation is one that
increases the present storage capacity of the area during periods of increased input flow velocities. Refer to map on next page for basin and device references.
Currently, the stream from the Briarwood subdivision, west of the park, runs directly into the wooded swamp (Basin #2). In heavy rains, water will mostly bypass the marsh (Basin #1) and flow directly into the swamp, quickly overwhelming the capacity of basin #2. At that point, the water level in basin #2 rises and overflows into basin #1. Before siltation raised the level of the marsh( basin #1), it was lower in elevation than basin #2, and filled first. At this time, the marsh is not being utilized as it should be to maximize the cleansing effects of a wetland, and to provide greater storage capacity. Thus, it will be necessary to make a minor modification to utilize basin #1 ( the marsh), more efficiently.
A device should be installed in the stream bed at the juncture of basins #1 and #2. The purpose of the device is to fill the marsh so that it will act as a detention area until the wooded swamp is sufficiently drained to accept more water. As an added bonus, the marsh will significantly cleanse the water prior to release.
An automatic sluice gate was considered, but ruled out because of possible water back up in the feed stream. An "inverted V" dam (Device A) was chosen to prevent this problem. In a significant rain, the water will drain directly into basin #2 until the level in the feed stream reaches the apex of the inverted V. At that point, the water will begin to divert into the marsh. This will relieve the pressure on the wooded swamp.
In order to regulate the amount of water in the swamp basin, a spillway (Device B) should be constructed on the northern edge of the wooded swamp (Basin #2). A functioning drainage ditch running north across the Sauerman property needs to be deep enough and wide enough so as to be able to handle the volume of water coming over the new spillway. It is also recommended that the drainage ditches along State Route 231 be improved as well.
Basin #3 accepts water from development to the South of the park. Presently, this stream rapidly fills and washes out the conservation path as it follows the land�s natural contours. The water meanders in a Northeasterly direction and eventually finds its way into the Rte. 231 drainage ditch. A formal drainage ditch(Device C) should be constructed at the point where the stream presently turns due North. The new ditch will empty directly into the 231 ditch. This will increase velocity and capacity of the entire system. Water back-up in the woods will be the exception rather than the norm.
Some short term flooding may occur in this area during extremely heavy rains only, and will quickly drain if the ditch running into the Rte 231 drainage system is improved. A spillway can also be constructed at the point where the stream turns north if it is necessary to control the release rate of water into the ditch running alongside Rte. 231.
These recommendations will provide a balanced system that utilizes the filtering benefits of wetlands while providing a significant increase in total system capacity..
Before any work on the drainage system is performed, the City must contact the Army Corps of Engineers to determine if a 404 permit is required. Information regarding Federal
Wetland Regulations and the 404 permitting process can be found in Appendix 3.
PATHS AND STRUCTURES
Although the development of a path running along the perimeter of the woods is advisable, the path must be designed so as not to interfere with natural flow of water over the land. Small bridges should be constructed over areas where a stream bed meets the path. It is recommended that an observation bridge, built of fire-resistant materials, be built across the wooded swamp. (See illustration on next page)
Materials used to surface the path should be fire resistant in order that the path may double as a fire break between the woods and neighboring homes. Limestone should not be used to surface the path because oak trees and other native plants thrive in acidic soil, and the application of limestone would change the pH balance of the soil. Water runoff from a limestone surface could seriously damage the native plant life in Sauerman Woods.
It is not advisable to develop paths within the interior portion of Sauerman Woods. Paths within the interior would disrupt the migration of native seeds, and discourage certain types of wildlife which require an uninterrupted habitat. The woods will support more thrushes, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and other rare birds if there are no interior trails. Fragmentation encourages more common birds, such as Starlings, and English Sparrows. Any dirt paths which currently exist within the savanna should be planted over with native savanna seeds, and used to help promote native seed migration.
Additionally, the path along the perimeter travels through the savanna, the wooded swamp, and ends at the marsh. This allows the visitor to see all that the nature area has to offer without disrupting the nature.
Structures and the Woods
When placing buildings or structures near a wooded area, it is necessary to provide a fire-wise landscape. Any Structures built within Sauerman Woods Park should not encroach into wildlands because a woodland wildfire can spread from wildland vegetation to encroaching structures, or can spread from encroaching structures to wildland vegetation. It should be noted that the vegetation of the marsh is highly flammable, even when water is present.
According to the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact, fire-wise landscapes in natural areas must provide "defensible space." Defensible space is a three foot area around structures which is not combustible, as well as a 30 foot area around the structure that at is not prone to fire.
The benefits of defensible space are:
1. An opportunity for the fire service to succeed in suppressing a wildfire. 2. An opportunity for the structure to survive the wildfire on its own. 3. An opportunity to prevent fire from spreading from the structure to surrounding vegetation, or vice-versa.
THE PARK AND THE COMMUNITY
It is recommended that a public relations program be established and implemented in order to inform and educate the public about the Sauerman Woods restoration project, and to answer any questions and address any fears the public may have about the program.
The public relations program should also aid in attracting volunteers and garnering community support for the restoration and preservation efforts in the park. A good public relations program for a similar project in Philadelphia generated volunteers as well as $20,000 annually in donation pledges for further park restoration.
In order to conduct a successful public relations program, it is suggested that the assistance of news feature writers, outdoor columnists, local radio and television talk show hosts, and local television and radio news broadcasters be utilized. Public forums, and press conferences should also be incorporated into an effective public relations program.
Friends of Sauerman Woods
In order to reduce the cost of restoration and preservation, and to encourage public participation in these efforts, a volunteer group of stewards should be officially formed for Sauerman Woods.
Activities such as seed harvesting, planting, removal of invasive plants, and prescribed burning are labor intensive, and will require the coordinated efforts of many people.
School groups, scout troops, 4-H members, garden clubs, church groups, local conservation groups, and Americorps provide sources where stewards may be found for Sauerman Woods.
A Good Neighbor
In addition, residents living in the neighborhoods near Sauerman Woods should be notified in advance about scheduled prescribed fire dates. The circulation of an informational flyer or pamphlet has been proven to be a very effective and positive means by which to keep nearby residents informed. The flyer should also serve as an educational tool.
Commonly asked questions, such as,"Won't the wild animals die in a fire?" or "Will my house be in danger?", should be anticipated, and answers to those questions should be provided within the flyer.
A phone number should also be provided so that residents who wish to have more information about the restoration program or who wish to become involved in the restoration program can have those needs addressed.
Also, those residents having health conditions which cause a sensitivity to smoke should be advised to have their names and phone numbers placed on a list so that those residents may be contacted on prescribed burning days.
If the possibility exists that smoke from a prescribed fire may drift into a nearby neighborhood, then an effort should be made to knock on the doors of that neighborhood and advise those residents to close their windows and take line-dried laundry inside.
Any residents who have health conditions which make them sensitive to smoke should be called, if possible, and advised to close their windows and stay indoors during the hours a prescribed fire is conducted. Additionally, announcements should be placed in newspapers and aired on local radio to remind residents on the day the prescribed burn occurs.
Examples of informational flyers circulated in neighborhoods near Hoosier Prairie (in Griffith, Indiana) and Gibson Woods (in Hammond, Indiana) prior to prescribed fires are provided in Appendix 1 of this document, and should serve as a guide in the development of an informational flyer for Sauerman Woods' neighbors.