Site work began this week to restore a native wetland habitat outside Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School in Lewisburg.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week used heavy equipment to move dirt to build the depression wetlands, with plantings of native flowers and shrubs set for next spring, according to Shanon L. Burkland Stamm, watershed and program specialist, Union County Conservation District. Earth-moving was to wrap up Friday.
The wetland will be on 1.25 acres just west of the school building along Washington Avenue, near Fairgrounds Road. A review of the site found that it had been transformed into farmland in the early 1900s, with much of the Limestone Run watershed diverted away, Mark Thomas, a wildlife biologist with Habitat Forever, previously said.
“The purpose is to re-establish a native wetland habitat that will filter stormwater runoff and provide a hands-on educational site for students,” Stamm said.
Lewisburg Area School District received $17,920 in Growing Greener funds through the Commonwealth to take on the project.
The improved wetlands will slow the runoff coming from the school’s impervious surfaces such as roofs and parking lots, filter pollutants out of the water and allow the water to absorb naturally back into the ground. Native plants will also benefit pollinators.
Seventh-grade science teacher Brad Catherman formally proposed the wetland’s creation plans to use the space as an outdoor classroom.
“It has certainly been a great feeling seeing dirt moving after a 2 year process. In fact, I have been troubleshooting how to address the runoff on that side of the school since 2012, so it is really satisfying to see the construction phase begin,” Catherman said.
“We have already had a couple lessons related to the wetlands, but many of the lessons will apply to next year’s curriculum,” he said.
Catherman conducts stream studies on Limestone Run. The wetland would create a second on-site experience, allowing for multiple standards to be taught in lessons including soil awareness, food webs, predator-prey relationships and the scientific method.