BY PHIL WHEELER
The Catawba Stewards of Little Free Libraries held a dedication for the latest of their Free Library boxes last week. The Little Library is located on land donated by the Nehls family in honor of Dr. Robert “Doc” Nehls, a much-beloved local local veterinarian.
“It started with people asking if there were any Little Free Libraries,” said Louise Terry of the Catawba Stewards of Little Free Library. “Our first was at Gem Beach. From there, people started posting sites where they would like to to see boxes offered on Catawba Island.
“This location is a perfect spot for a Little Library.”
The 40-acre plot is part of what was known as the Great Black Swamp, a glacially fed wetland in northwest Ohio, sections of lower Michigan, and extreme northeast Indiana that existed until the late 19th century. It was a network of forests, wetlands, and grasslands, characterized by species of ash, elm, cottonwood and sycamore.
In 2003, Dr. Robert L. Nehls and his wife, Norma Nehls, purchased the property. They began restoring it to native habitat by clearing campground remnants from the land. After Dr. Nehls died, his wife sold the property to Black Swamp Conservancy, which enlisted the help of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in managing it for public use.
Rob Krain, director of Black Swamp Conservancy talked about their mission. “We protect and preserve natural and agricultural lands in northwest Ohio for the benefit of future generations.”
The preserve is located on East Muggy Road in Catawba Island Township. The property covers approximately 21 acres of land and 18 acres of submerged land along West Harbor. Approximately 7.7 acres of the property, formerly in agricultural use, was planted in June 2019 to short grass prairie/pollinator meadow habitat.
Little Free Library is a 501c nonprofit organization that promotes neighborhood book exchanges, usually in the form of a public bookcase.To find out more about this organization, or how to provide your own Little Free Library, go to www.littlefreelibrary.org.