The Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Black Swamp Conservancy joined together on Saturday morning for the grand opening of the Dr. Robert “Doc” Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve, 4400 Muggy Road on the Catawba Peninsula.
The preserve is now open from sunrise to sunset.
The beautiful property had long been a special place to enjoy nature and the calm West Harbor waters for the late veterinarian and outdoorsman and his wife, Norma. After her husband’s death, Norma felt the property should be shared, and made a special arrangement to have it become a park and nature area.
The BSC and Ottawa Refuge have a 25-year management agreement in place to do just that. This agreement outlines plans to cooperatively manage the Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve to protect wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities.
This partnership provided the Friends of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (FONWR) with an opportunity to assist. Through the incredible support of the community, the FONWR raised $82,350 towards this project.
So far, funds have helped to bring in stone to improve the parking area and stabilize the shoreline.
A mowed grass trail meanders through the short-grass prairie, which is now in full bloom. There is also a gravel loop which visitors can hike or drive. A rustic kayak launch is currently available.
This fall an ADA-compliant canoe and kayak launch will be installed allowing those with disabilities to access West Harbor and a connection with the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails.