Learning center

Worthington Wetlands Learning Center upgraded with new floating dock and restored trail – The Globe

WORTHINGTON — A waterfowl production area and wetland learning area owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received much-needed attention this week as a work crew from Ohio was in town to demolish the wooden duck blind and the existing dock in favor of a new floating dock with a fishing pier.

The property, located along Read Avenue, is one of the few USFWS plots located so close to a city and offers the public the opportunity to connect with nature. In addition to a wetland that provides opportunities for fishing (mainly carp) and waterfowl viewing, the site includes a walking trail through native reseeded prairie grasses and flowers.

Wood ducks and blue-winged teal emerge from a pond in the Worthington Waterfowl Production Area Tuesday afternoon.

Tim Middagh / The Globe

Jonathan Beyer, project manager for the Windom Wetlands Management District, said USFWS has partnered with the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District and the Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District. to finance the new wharf. The OOWD and SWCD each contributed $3,500 towards the costs.

“This project is part of the Great American Outdoors Act,” Beyer explained, noting that the law was signed into law by the Trump administration in August 2020 to prioritize investments in public access and recreation and help the USFWS fund some of its deferred maintenance projects. .

The Blind Duck and Wharf – along with the Wetland Learning Area Trail Network – qualified as it has been at least 20 years since any improvements have been made to the site. Beyer also noted that the blind duck had become a safety hazard and was closed to the public.

A walking trail in the Worthington Wetlands Learning Area and Waterfowl Production Area is marked for an improved trail that will include crushed concrete and asphalt that will be compacted to build a new path.
A walking trail in the Worthington Wetlands Learning Area and Waterfowl Production Area is marked for an improved trail that will include crushed concrete and asphalt that will be compacted to build a new path.

Tim Middagh / The Globe

“We were fortunate enough to get these projects funded through (the law),” Beyer said.

The Ohio crew — USFWS members who make up a Great American Outdoors Act team — travels the country performing maintenance on USFWS property, which helps wetland management districts like the one in Windom, which has a smaller staff and a 13-county area to work in.

Funded by federal energy revenues, Beyer said the law will pay about $475 million in deferred maintenance projects across the country.

The new floating T-Dock installed at the Worthington site is not fully completed, as there are four benches and several railing pieces that have yet to arrive. Beyer hoped the parts could be installed before the end of this month.

A Common Yellowthroat sits on a clump of mud left after the removal of the old viewing awning in the Worthington Waterfowl Production Area.
A Common Yellowthroat sits on a clump of mud left after the removal of the old viewing awning in the Worthington Waterfowl Production Area.

Tim Middagh / The Globe

“We’ll get them in as soon as we get them,” he said.

The dock is considerably larger than the one it replaced, and Beyer said it would be ideal for classrooms to congregate for programming. Although the USFWS does not have a large enough staff in Windom to conduct programs at the site, there are plans to update the kiosk for self-guided environmental education.

“It’s a unique WPA for us because it’s so close to town,” Beyer said. “We try to increase people’s connection to nature.”

The Nobles SWCD coordinates an annual program at the Wetland Learning Center with the Prairie Ecology Bus Center. PEBC offers a program inside its mobile science lab, then grade five students are given a tour of the wetland by SWCD and OOWD staff.

“We have them here every year,” Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl said of the two-day program offered each September.

Livdahl said he often saw people walking the trail or watching waterfowl when he was in the area. The Watershed District supported the new wharf to encourage people to use the site.

While rains on Wednesday and Thursday delayed efforts to rehabilitate the existing trail, this project is also expected to wrap up in the coming week. Once a gravel trail, the nearly half mile loop had become overgrown with grass and was maintained as a mowed trail.

“We will be adding crushed concrete,” Beyer said, noting that the site is also slated for a prescribed burn this year to rejuvenate the native grasses and flowers planted there.

People are welcome to walk their dogs on site, but are asked to keep their dogs on a leash and clean up after their pets.

Because the WPA is located within the city limits, hunting is not permitted.