Birders' viewing platform, boardwalk, and more are coming to nature preserve in Paw Paw

Public access will be coming to Sora Meadows Preserve in Paw Paw Township, says Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. 

A 10-car gravel parking lot, a birders’ viewing platform, boardwalk, and a trailhead are amenities that will be added to the preserve and they are being made possible through a grant from Entergy-Palisades Environmental Initiatives Fund.

“These public access amenities will enable us to better share this spectacular nature preserve with the community and the general public,” says Pete Ter Louw, SWMLC President and Executive Director.

Over the past 20 years, SWMLC has conserved more than 3.5 square miles of wetlands, forested floodplains and woodlands in the Paw Paw River watershed was it works to protect Great Lakes waters and wildlife habitat. 

The 65-acre Sora Meadows Preserve, acquired through a donation from landowner Phyllis Webb, is a critical component of protecting water quality and water quantity in the watershed.

Today, the preserve supports a broad diversity of birds, including 65 nesting species, and over 100 migrating species.

The wetlands were acquired in 2008 as part of a project undertaken by SWMLC and Ducks Unlimited to restore wetlands to what had been unused agricultural fields and critical waterfowl habitat. Culverts and ditches were installed. The project was undertaken as part of a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality-funded restoration project supported by the EPA.

The project is restoring and protecting wetlands in the Paw Paw and Black River watersheds.

”Our ongoing restoration work on this preserve, including removal of invasive species and reforestation efforts, has served to create additional habitat for popular but elusive bird species such as Eastern bluebirds and indigo buntings,” says SWMLC’s Stewardship Director Mitch Lettow. “We are really excited for birdwatching groups, schoolchildren, and others to be able to visit this preserve and have a place from which they can comfortably experience the tremendous variety of bird species present at this special preserve.”

SWMLC staff will work with Dr. Sharon Gill, an SWMLC board member and Western Michigan University professor, plus volunteers and members of the Audubon Society of Kalamazoo to coordinate the design of the viewing platform to optimize the birdwatching experience at Sora Meadows Preserve.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy serves the nine counties of southwest Michigan and has worked with regional landowners to protect over 16,000 acres since its inception as an all-volunteer organization in 1991. With nine staff, 150 active volunteers and support from more than 1,250 household memberships SWMLC is active maintains 50 nature preserves, enforces almost 100 conservation easements, and convenes regional partners to create conservation plans and engage people in the natural world.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

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Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.