Northern Indiana Rotary District 6540 and Elkhart Noon Rotary Club Sponsor Shoreline Restoration Project at Wellfield Botanic Gardens

September 27, 2016

Over one half of Wellfield Botanic Gardens’ 36 acres are comprised of surface water including a navigable stream, Christiana Creek that runs directly through the property. More importantly, the Gardens sit atop an aquifer that serves as the primary well field for the City of Elkhart. In fact, more than 70% of the potable water used in the community flows from this well field – approximately 4 million gallons every day. Wellfield Botanic Gardens has great responsibility – – to serve its Mission in a way that does not impact the quality of the groundwater and ultimately protects and preserves this most precious of life-sustaining resources. In its 10 years of operation, the Gardens have engaged in practices that help protect the groundwater on which it sits, including use of safe, environmentally-friendly methods of weed/pest control, proper application of compost/compost tea for plant growth and nutrition, as well as proper design and installation of themed garden spaces that reduce runoff/erosion, work with natural features of the land, and provide educational opportunities demonstrating how guests might create similar spaces at their homes or businesses.

Wellfield’s “Shoreline Restoration Project” serves to stabilize and revitalize an undeveloped, but historically disturbed area of shoreline along Lotus Pond in Wellfield’s northwest corner. Establishment of Indiana native plants, including shoreline, aquatic and semi-aquatic species serves to anchor the soil, prevent erosion, provide a natural filtration system for water that does run into the pond, and establishes valuable native wildlife habitat for birds, insects, and other riparian species. The plantings serve to improve water quality for pond life and encourage native species.

The project serves the need of the community to have a safe and reliable water source and its positive effects address Rotary’s “water quality and sanitation” area of focus. It also serves an educational purpose, demonstrating to guests the importance of shoreline heath, native habitat, and clean ground water. The project ultimately benefits the entire community through cleaner, safer water that requires less treatment and provides terrific habitat for local wildlife.

Over a 10-day period in September, Wellfield staff and community volunteers removed existing invasive plants from the area, spread a ‘shoreline mix’ of native seeds, installed straw erosion mats along the shore to reduce runoff and planted a diverse array of native shoreline species and aquatic vegetation. The project was developed and overseen by Wellfield Botanic Gardens Horticulture Manager, Josh Steffen. Volunteers from both Wellfield and Rotary made the project a reality along with financial support from the club and District, which covered the materials cost for the project. This project is another shining example of Rotary’s positive impact in the community, providing services and resources that make our world a better place in which to live.

Written by Eric Garton, Robert and Peggy Weed Executive Director, Wellfield Botanic Gardens