Project Report

Implementing Interpretive Reconciliation & Restoration Ecology Signage in a Delaware Park

Summary

My original project idea was to implement interpretive ecological materials into one or more local Delaware parks, ranging from signage to brochures. Fairly early on, I decided to focus mainly on signage, and my plan was to make signs about the certain ecosystems and habitats represented in the park(s) with some information about the types of animals and plants found in those environments. After meeting with Dr. Krygier and Mr. Miller of City of Delaware Parks and Recreation, we collectively agreed to change the theme to reconciliation and restoration ecology in a specific wetlands park. I visited the park and more or less determined the number of signs I want to implement and the subjects they will cover. This project is far from over, as I have yet to draft the designs of the signs, but my goal is to have 4 to 5 complete drafts that I have met with a graphic designer about by mid spring semester. I chose this project because I am passionate about educating the public about ecology and wildlife, especially in their own backyards.

Methods and Results

I first had to determine which park or parks I wanted to implement interpretive signs into. I discussed this with Dr. Krygier, who referred me to Ted Miller, the Director of Parks and Natural Resources for City of Delaware Parks and Recreation because Dr. Krygier knew of a city park that was undergoing some further development. I met with Mr. Miller and Dr. Krygier to discuss my initial ideas and gain a greater understanding of the park and what Mr. Miller was looking for. The park in question is a 45 acre man-made wetlands park comprised of three ponds with a 0.8 loop trail and a large, fenced dog park. During our discussion, we determined that interpretive signage of wildlife and habitats was unoriginal and decided to focus on a more specific and unique theme for the park instead: Reconciliation and restoration ecology. Urban reconciliation ecology: The potential of living roofs and walls” from the Journal of Environmental Management describes reconciliation ecology as a concept 

“by which the anthropogenic environment may be modified to encourage non-human use and biodiversity preservation without compromising societal utilization, potentially represents an appropriate paradigm for urban conservation given the generally poor opportunities that exist for reserve establishment and ecological restoration in urban areas” (p. 1429).

Michael Rosenzweig states that “restoration ecology tries to return some developed places to a more natural status” in his book Win-Win Ecology.

Before it was made into a park, the property and surrounding property had been used in a few different ways in the past, from agricultural land, to a landfill, to a site where earth was dug up to help build up the railroad running behind the property. Additionally, a strip mall is located just north of the property, and the city needed a way to filter the stormwater runoff from that area before it entered the Delaware Run where its contents would potentially harm downstream environments. As a result, the city constructed the wetlands as a natural means of filtration for this runoff. Since then, native flora and fauna (as well as some nonnative species) have moved in to reclaim the area. This is an example of an environment beginning to restore itself to a natural state after human disturbance. Together Dr. Krygier, Mr. Miller, and I determined that 

A week or two after meeting with Dr. Krygier and Mr. Miller, I met Mr. Miller at the wetlands park to take a tour and gain insight into the changes the park has undergone as well as the changes it is currently seeing and will hopefully see in the future. I was able to visualize how water flows through the wetlands and is filtered, how forest succession is occurring with young softwood saplings, and where prairies may soon be planted using native flora. I was also shown the property adjacent to the park that the city is currently trying to acquire in order to expand the park, which includes a man-made lake and more mature woodlands. The difficulty in implementing signage in this territory is that there is no timeline yet for the acquisition of it by the city, and even if it is acquired soon, development of the property for public use is a long process.

I then brainstormed what my signs might look like and where they would be implemented in the park. One sign should be placed at the entrance of the park that describes the overall theme of reconciliation and restoration ecology in the park, tying in the rest of the signs. A sign should be constructed at the edge of the path near the wetlands, describing how the water is filtered and despite being man-made, is restoring itself to a more natural system with native flora and fauna utilizing the environment as a habitat, creating an ecology within it. I would also like to make a sign about secondary succession occurring where shrubs and softwood saplings like maples and cottonwoods are growing, as well as a sign about how wildlife has moved into the park, from beavers building dams in the wetlands to migratory birds making a pitstop in the park on their way south or back north. For the latter animals, I need to contact Dr. Reichard at OWU because he has conducted a study on migratory birds in that park and can provide me with a plethora of information on them. Furthermore, I would like to make a sign regarding the prairies that will be planted within the next few seasons, but as with the unacquired adjacent territory, this will not be practical until the prairies are established, and there is no exact time for this to happen. Finally, I plan on putting a sign near the dog park that describes why dog parks are beneficial for natural areas, why dogs should be leashed in parks, and why cleaning up after dogs is important. I could tie this into the theme of the rest of the park by describing how natural areas can better restore themselves with minimal canine disturbances.

Fortunately for me, Mr. Miller already had a brand and model design picked out for the signs before I even met him. Now I don’t have to research different brands and types of signs that are most cost-efficient. My job now is to draft the design of the signs and meet with a graphic designer who is in touch with Mr. Miller to smooth out my ideas and see what they might look like in real life with pictures and diagrams. Clearly, I am not finished with this project. It sometimes feels as though I have barely started. I have encountered a couple of obstacles and I am sure to encounter more as I continue on this project, but my goal is to have 4 or 5 concrete design plans for signs by the middle of spring semester.

Recommendations

My first recommendation to myself is to better manage my time in terms of how I balance studying and completing assignments for my classes. Conducting this project while also having other projects and assignments going on both in Environmental Geography and my other 3 classes was challenging for me. If I had managed my time better, I may have had several complete sign designs by now. Furthermore, I should have taken pictures when I visited the park, not only to help others get a feel for what it looks like, but to help me brainstorm ideas about what to include on the signs and about where the signs should be constructed. If I had taken pictures, maybe some of them could even be included on the signs themselves. Thirdly, I should have conducted more research on the history of the property itself. Since I am planning on continuing with my project, I still have time to do this, but doing so earlier could have helped me better understand how the park has changed physically and how the ecology has ebbed and flowed over time and with different land uses. Finally, I would love to go back in time to myself at the beginning of this project and tell myself to stop being so scared of this project (it’s probably the biggest one I have ever worked on, especially without the aid of classmates) and just take control!

Contacts

  • Ted Miller – Parks and Natural Resources Director, City of Delaware Parks and Recreation (email: tmiller@delawareohio.net)
  • John Krygier – Professor of Geography at Ohio Wesleyan University and my Environmental Geography professor (email: jbkrygier@owu.edu)

Appendix

Below is a bird’s eye view of the trail around the wetlands portion of the park. Source: https://www.smartshoot.com/bluemaplephotography/aerial-photography

Below is a picture that shows what the territory of the park will include if the adjacent property is bought to expand the park. The current border of the park can be seen in dark green if you zoom in. Emailed by Ted Miller.

The following are the original plans of the wetlands park from the City of Delaware, emailed by Ted Miller

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