Why a Wetland Park?
From an early age, most kids have a hard time passing up a patch of water, or even a mud puddle. And no matter how many years have passed since we were that little boy or girl splashing in the mud and rain, most of us are still attracted to water in some form or another.
Water in nature can be a place to play, relax, appreciate beauty, watch wildlife and see interesting plants, or learn about an ecosystem. A wetland lets us do all of these things and much more.
So, what is a wetland? Very simply, a wetland is a unique and vital link between land and water. These transition zones serve many critical purposes, including providing food and shelter for all sorts of wildlife, absorbing and slowing floodwaters, or acting as a filtering system that protects and cleans lake and river water destined to become the water we drink, cook with, bathe in and use to grow livestock and food. You can learn even more about what constitutes a wetland here.
Team Up to Clean Up (TUCU) and Save Our Water (SOW) wanted Lake Eufaula residents and visitors—both children and adults—to understand how wetlands work and why they are important. But most natural wetlands are remote, often impassable on foot, and even if you are standing in a wetland, the relationships and interdependence among the water, plants, soil, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians that are all part of a wetland are not always easily understood.
So, for that understanding to happen, we needed to create an easily accessible place where people could “get up close” and witness some of the aspects of these unique and critical systems. Wetlands can be found in every county and climatic zone in the United States, so we knew we could find either a wetland to restore or an area to construct a functioning wetland in or near the city of Eufaula.
We identified an area near the shoreline, north of Eufaula Cove that could serve as a stormwater wetland. This location, between the lake and an urban environment (with typical components related to stormwater pollution — homes, driveways, streets, lawns, pesticides and discarded solid waste) allows our Wetland Park to both reduce contaminants entering the lake and help educate people on the benefits of a wetland in an urban environment.
Visitors will see interpretive/educational signs identifying various flora and fauna and their symbiotic relationship in the wetlands as they traverse future trails and viewing platforms. Those who takes the time to visit this environmentally educational ecosystem will undoubtedly go away with more knowledge and more questions about a wetland and its biological secrets.