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Last month, a small team of Village Environmental Commission members and local residents got to work establishing a new prairie at Ellis Arboretum. (Submitted photo by Ben Guenther)

New prairie to protect Ellis Pond

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On Thursday, Nov. 16, a small team of local residents and members of the Village Environmental Commission went to the northern reaches of the 17-acre Ellis Park to install a 4,500-square-foot prairie.

The goal of the new prairie: To provide a natural buffer from the adjacent farm fields and prevent runoff from leaching into the pond. Comprising that eventual buffer are over 30 species of native plants — a mixture of flowers, grasses and sedges — including ironweed, aster, milkweed, Joe Pye weed, deer tongue grass and more.

Creating a prairie is the latest effort to stymie the recent proliferation of algae in Ellis Pond — a phenomenon connected to the pond’s shallow depth, lack of water flow and proximity to nearby farms.

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Last year, a team of Wright State University researchers led by local resident Yvonne Vadeboncoeur tested water and sediment throughout the pond for their nitrogen and phosphorus levels. As previously reported in the News, their tests indicated “higher-than-normal” levels of both chemicals, thus creating conditions that fuel rapid algal growth.

Council member and Environmental Commission liaison Marianne MacQueen said in an email to the News earlier this week that the new prairie will provide a number of benefits to the ecology of the pond, including filtering out potential farm runoff and other nutrients.

“[The plants’] deep root systems also hold moisture and help against flooding,” MacQueen said.

MacQueen was among six volunteers who helped spread the seed-infused sawdust last Thursday. Also present was Environmental Commission member Catherine Zimmerman, who told the News that fall is the best time to begin a new prairie.

“A lot of these plants need to experience a freeze and go through at least one cold cycle,” she said. “And thankfully, Village crews — especially [Interim Village Manager] Johnnie Burns — were quick to step up and help out with this project at the right time. The cooperation has been just wonderful.”

With decades of experience in re-nativizing traditional lawns into native wildlife habitats, Zimmerman said she believes it’ll take three years for the prairie to grow into full bloom. In the meantime, occasional maintenance, weeding and supplemental plantings may be needed.

While that work ought to be left to Village crews and Environmental Commission members, Zimmerman noted that one way in which local residents can directly contribute to the efforts of cleaning up the pond and improving its riparian borders is to donate to a new fund: “The Lance Jordan Friends of Ellis Pond Fund.”

Named after the late Lance Jordan, an area resident and biology teacher who died in 2021, and spearheaded by Commission members Alex Klug and Carmen Brown, the fund aims to generate money to continually improve and steward Ellis Park. According to Brown, the fund is the brainchild of local resident Ruth Jordan.

“Proceeds will go to relevant ecological, aesthetically pleasing improvements to the space, and may include educational opportunities in the future,” Klug said in an email earlier this week. “The fund will be used to support ongoing maintenance needs that exceed Village capacity, and to educational signage and volunteer projects.”

To learn more about The Lance Jordan Friends of Ellis Pond Fund, go to the Yellow Springs Community Foundation’s website at yscf.org. To keep up-to-date with environmental ongoings in the village, the next Environmental Commission meeting is Thursday, Dec. 7, at 5:45 p.m., at John Bryan Community Center. The meeting is open to the public.

*The writer is also a member of the Environmental Commission.

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