On August 10, 2020, the Indian Creek Nature Center woodlands would change forever. As the derecho made its way through Cedar Rapids, the Nature Center was not prepared for the damage it would cause. Losing about 60% of our trees, we are still seeing the effects of this storm to this day. But, for the past year and a half, our priorities have been set on helping our woodlands to heal.
Thanks to the help of our dedicated volunteers, we are making great progress with the restoration of the woodlands surrounding Amazing Space, as well as at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm. Now, two and a half years after the derecho blew through Cedar Rapids, we expect to be completely finished with derecho clean up in the next few months.
Our volunteers continue working with the land team, sometimes every day of the week, to help us open up the forest floor and restore 36 acres of woods. Using chainsaws, we are cutting all damaged trees and downed debris to be relocated into habitat piles. These piles allow for the land team to maneuver through the woodlands, promoting safer and more effective management. It allows sunlight to better reach the woodland floor so native vegetation is able to germinate and reestablish. These piles are also utilized as dens or nesting habitat by many woodland dwelling wildlife, such as snakes, frogs, and voles. We call this work ‘Emergency Forest Restoration Program,’ which could not be accomplished without funding from the state.
While this damage is upsetting, it’s part of the forest lifecycle. Without the loss of canopy cover, there would be no room for young trees to succeed.
With the help of Linn County Rotary and Nature Center volunteers, we were able to plant 100 tree saplings in the Wood Duck Way floodplain in fall 2022, including species like pin oak, sycamore, river birch, and swamp white oak. However, the woodlands are also repopulating themselves. Young white oaks, shagbark hickories, sugar maples, and other native tree species are taking advantage of this extra sunlight to replace the trees that once overshadowed them. Even through great damage and disturbance, our woodlands are and will remain resilient.
If you’d like to contribute to the health of our woodlands, we’d love to have you join our team of dedicated volunteers.