The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 30, 2018 1:00 am

Marsh wildlife cause for celebration

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Soon the frogs at the Eagle Marsh Wetland Preserve will start going underground, into the mud and leaves.

Naturalists and volunteers will then wait until March or April to hear the peepers, a sign of spring.

Frogs are just some of the wildlife held dear at the preserve. To celebrate their lives – and those of toads, snakes, birds, monarch butterflies, bald eagles and wild turkeys – Frogapalooza was held in their honor Saturday evening.

The sold-out event held inside a white tent next to the Eagle Marsh Barn has been held annually since 2010 to raise money for various projects, said Betsy Yankowiak, director of preserves and programs for the Little River Wetlands Project, a nonprofit associated with Eagle Marsh.

“Frogs depend on wetlands and the clean water the wetlands provide,” Yankowiak said. “Our mission is to protect and restore wetlands.”

Land for the preserve that is now 756 acres was purchased in 2005, and restoration began four years later. It is the largest inland urban wetland restored in the nation, said Amy Silva, executive director for Little River Wetlands, at the fundraiser.

Why wetlands are important was addressed by one of the project's co-founders, Sam Schwartz, a retired microbiologist.

“If we lose different creatures, we'll never know the things they can offer mankind until it's too late,” Schwartz said. Those unknown things include medicines and scientific advances, he added.

“This is my passion,” Schwartz said. “The birds and wildlife that live here are only here because of the habitat. If you build a habitat, wildlife will come back to it.”

A habitat is what Conrad Getz created with his wild bird sanctuary in Leo. Getz enjoyed spending an evening with like-minded people but fears for the future of wild birds.

“We've got so many people spraying their yards with harsh, unknown-result chemicals. It's creating havoc,” Getz said.

The evening promised hikes through the preserve, drinks, dinner and a bonfire.

Guests Barb Clark, a board member with Friends of the Parks, and Ann Shive, a local art gallery owner, had their eye on one of the silent auction's offerings, a harvest moon cookout and party at Eagle Marsh. They had praise for the Little River Wetlands Project mission.

“What this organization does and what they hope to do is so important,” Clark said. “Promoting (this project) and educating children is so necessary and important.”

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