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Wetlands Recovery Update (ongoing)

This blog serves as an ongoing update about our wetlands recovery efforts. You can also visit our Wetlands webpage here for more information: https://fontenelleforest.org/wetlands/

This is a picture of a wetland with long grass. There is a cleared space with standing water in it. It has the text in the middle "NOW OPEN! WETLANDS".

may 17, 2021

The wetlands at Fontenelle Forest – a favorite area for hikers and birders – is now open!

We are very excited to announce that after more than two years of flood recovery work, access to the south wetlands is OPEN!

Why was it closed?

In the fall of 2018, Hidden Lake Trail froze with several inches to one foot of water on it. Due to this our Wetlands were already saturated leading up to the historic spring floods of 2019.

When the floods hit in March of 2019, the Missouri River rose so quickly that the wetlands and surrounding structures were overcome by flood waters and sustained a lot of damage. This unique ecosystem within the Forest – a favorite area for hikers and birders – was closed indefinitely.

What damage was sustained?

There was a lot of damage, trash and destruction. Volunteers and staff worked hard to clean up what they could. The cottonwood tree was displaced, our dipping pond dock was moved, the boardwalk came apart, and the observation blind connection to the boardwalk was damaged. As well, there was significant erosion around the blind.

What repairs were made?

We worked with Big Muddy Workshop, who initially designed the blind and boardwalk, to draw up repair plans and design the new bridge. We needed to obtain Army Corps of Engineer permits, and we are working with a FEMA grant to help pay for some of the construction costs. Dostals Construction completed the work. We were able to salvage some of the boardwalk sections, and used those where we could, with some repaired boards and joints.

See photos of some of the repairs that were made below.

Is there still work to be done?

Yes. As time goes on, we may need to reseed around the construction areas, and will be doing so with native, local seed. Please step carefully if you’re walking on the erosion control blankets as we wait for the seeds to germinate.

Hidden Lake Trail is being reworked on the end that meets up with History Trail, but we haven’t had a chance to move the kiosk yet.

We will be mulching Pond Trail again, but in the mean-time, be ready for muddy conditions.

Thank you to all of our members and guests for your understanding and patience
as our staff and volunteers worked diligently to restore the wetlands.

We hope you get a chance to explore this unique area and make new discoveries in the Forest!


For general questions:
Contact Visitor Services at 402-731-3140 or info@fontenelleforest.org.

For detailed questions about the wetlands flood recovery project:
Email Michelle Foss, Director of Resource Stewardship, at mfoss@fontenelleforest.org.

a picture of a small wooden bridge. It has the text, "NEW BRIDGE" in a green label with a white text. a picture of wooden stairs next to a tree. It has the text "BLIND JOINT" in a green label with white text.

a picture of geese on the shoreline of a body of water. It has the text, "GEESE ON NEW SHORE" in a green label with white text. A picture of a wooden path through forest. It has the caption "NEW BOARDWALK".

march 20, 2021

Hello Forest members, guests and all Wetlands fans!

by Michelle Foss, Director of Resource Stewardship

A picture of a wetland with a white ribbon containing the text: "WETLANDS UPDATE" in green.

We wanted to share a quick update on the progress on the flood reconstruction efforts happening in the Wetlands and an updated timeline on completion.

Construction in the Wetlands was delayed by the deep snow and very cold temperatures earlier this year, which was then followed by sudden warming. Due to this unusual weather, we submitted a time extension request to FEMA.

Why did this unusual weather cause a delay?

Because of the extreme cold (during which equipment and people can’t work), and near-record snow, our construction has been delayed by about two weeks. Unfortunately, this translates to closer to a six-week delay because the frost is coming out of the ground. While this is happening, the abundance of mud makes it both unsafe, and out of compliance with Army Corps of Engineers’ guidance with regard to minimizing disruptions to wetland areas. All of our project areas require moving equipment through delineated wetlands. In the original timeline, the wetlands would have been frozen, so the impact would have been lower, but due to this delay, it pushed work into the thawing period.

However, we are excited to share that the end is in sight! At this point in time, we are expecting the projects to be completed by the end of April.

Specific project progress reports:

Observation Blind – This project is approximately 90% complete. The topsoil, boulders, and barrier for erosion control work have been placed, and replacement of the boardwalk section linking the boardwalk and the observation blind is all that remains. Finishing touches include seeding post-construction and rehabilitation of the access path.

Boardwalk – This part is about 75% complete. The boardwalk has been removed, and new sections built, as well as replacing some of the sections. Installing the rest of the sections on the ground is all that remains.

Docks – This part is about 85% complete. The pond dock is nearly complete, we recovered the entire dock, and all that remains is to fit the decking back on the floats. It is in place. We still need to put in the canoe dock on the marsh.

Bridge – This part is 0% complete. The bridge was pushed back to allow the ground to freeze to make it easier to install, but with the significant snowfall, the ground didn’t freeze until just before the record cold, where the equipment wouldn’t run. The bulk of the delay is in this section. Once they can get in and work, this part should take about two weeks. Staging of supplies and equipment is in progress.

Once the construction projects are complete, we will be able to get back into the floodplain trails to mow and open for the season.

The anticipated date to reopen the Wetlands to the public is May 15. That said, please continue to respect all closures until a public announcement has been made.

We promise you won’t be able to miss the reopening announcement because we will shout it from the rooftops! We appreciate your patience, and hope to get things open as quickly as possible!

a stack of boardwalk sections in the snow. It has the text, "Boardwalk sections built: 100% of the boardwalk sections have been built. These are awaiting installation." a picture of trees and snow. It has the text, "Boardwalk sections in place: Snow-covered sections were put in before the big snow. As of March 2, about 30% of the boardwalk had been installed."

a pile of boulders. It has the text, "Erosion control boulders east side: On the east - facing side of the observation blind. the erosion control barrier and boulders had been placed. As of March 2. the fill dirt and topsoil have been added." a person standing on a pile of rock in the snow. It has the text, "Erosion control boulders west side: Our contracter is standing on built-out land talking about the erosion control boulders and how they help to mitigate wave action erosion from the Great Marsh."

November 20, 2020

We’ve received many questions about the floodplain – why are the trails still closed, when will things be fixed, when can we hike again?! Well, here’s the latest update!

Construction is to begin between November 23 and December 1, so we will be closing the area south of Gifford Road on the floodplain. Most of the wetlands trails have been closed since the flood and will remain closed. Additionally, we will be closing South Stream and Pond Trails. This means that ALL wetlands trails will be closed during construction.  

The construction crew will be staging near the building and will likely begin work at the bird blind. While the structure itself sustained little damage, the connecter bridge from the boardwalk must be replaced, and we have lost a significant amount of land to the Great Marsh due to erosion. They will be conducting bank stabilization and increase the ground between the blind and the Great Marsh. As well, the boardwalk will need to be cleaned up, and pieces that can be reused will be, as it wasn’t all destroyed. The ground will need light grading before the boardwalk is replaced. The last element to be constructed is a new bridge over the stream to connect the floodplain to Mormon Hollow Trail.

The completion date of construction is March 19, 2021. Throughout the project, as new updates are available, we will post updates to this blog to keep everyone informed. We know that many people are anxious to have access to the floodplain again and we ask for your patience as we complete work.

In addition to the construction during the dormant season, the rangers will be working on rerouting, planning, and constructing the remaining wetlands trails. We expect changes in our trail layouts both at Neale Woods and Fontenelle Forest. We are being strategic so we don’t have to fight Mother Nature and changing water levels or add structures to the floodplain, to the best of our ability with our planning tools available. We ask that everyone be respectful of all closures, both for trails work and construction, so we can do our jobs safely for both people and the land. We strive to provide access in the most balanced way possible with an eye to the future, including habitat restoration potential on the floodplain.

Though the southern trails are closed, Cottonwood, Missouri, and North Stream Trails remain open. We will keep you posted as to progress throughout the winter, and are excited to open back up this spring. Until then, happy hiking!

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