Porterco Conservation Trust, Inc., supported by the Porter County Parks Foundation, Inc., both 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations, is taking this wetland, and former garbage dump, under our wing. Its best use is to restore it as a shorebird sanctuary, suitable for the broad swath of migrating birds to rest, feed, and prepare for their continued journeys. Some areas within the sanctuary will be specifically constructed for migratory shorebirds, with managed pond levels, appropriate food sources, and habitat. The sanctuary will also allow for permanent wildlife residents and flora native to our region as well as amenities for their human friends.
This gives you an idea of where we are and what our relationship is to the extended wet areas left over from the Ice Age. Although much of this area has been drained, many of the wetland aspects remain including the soils, water table, and laminar flow of waters beneath the surface of this great area. Many aquatic plants persist as do some amphibians.
This particular piece of wetland later became a garbage dump. Some years ago, after a serious attempt to drain this area, a chance fire found the underlying peat moss tinder dry and yielding. Yellow-brown, choking smoke clouded Chesterton for weeks. Peat fires are notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to extinguish. When the flames finally burned down to the remaining water level, the noxious fire went out. However, all trees, native grasses, wetland bush, homes, borrows, and nests of wildlife were destroyed.
Work continues on the sanctuary as volunteers are available and weather permits. With the use of our Argo, an amphibious and land-capable vehicle, and backhoe, we have been preparing hiking trails that will lead to various sites including Griffin Lake.
In the future, these trails will lead to platforms, both elevated and ground level, to observe the wetlands. Other amenities that have been built or are in progress include parking areas, shelters, and picnic tables that will be available for visitors.
This conceptual image shows our vision for the Westchester Migratory Bird Sanctuary. With a few years of work, this area can become alive again. Species that once thrived here will return when the invasive vegetation of phragmites, cattails, and reed canary grass is removed and controlled. Raising water levels will encourage migratory waterbirds to return. Restoring diverse food sources will encourage the habitation of a variety of birds and other animals.
The goal is to have the community enjoy this area for years to come. It will be available to the schools and interested individuals in the area to provide educational experiences in restoration, conservation, and wildlife habitats.