When most people hear the word “savanna,” they visualize the great plains of Africa. What they don’t realize is northeast Indiana was once covered in such ecosystems, which are characterized by a mix of woodlands and grasslands.
LaGrange County Parks and Recreation Department is looking to turn back the clock by restoring parts of the local natural habitat to its pre-settlement landscape through the planting of oak trees in a prairie currently maintained at Delt Church Park, located between Topeka and Wolcottville.
The project will be accomplished with a $4,425 EnviroWatts grant recently awarded by LaGrange County REMC and made possible through our participating members.
The plan outlines the planting of 18 white oak, single oak and burr oak trees, slated to begin this fall.
According to Micheal Metz, director of the parks deparment, the project’s goal is to complement the natural areas that already exist in the park.
“We’ve got a lot of unique natural areas. That’s one of the reasons people come to the parks: to enjoy the natural areas and the associated biodiversity,” Metz said. “The biggest thing we’re trying to do is create an attractive and enjoyable place for people to exercise or relax, especially passive recreational activities with the trails.”
The parks department maintains about eight miles of trails between four of its major parks and cares for more than 700 acres throughout the county.
While its operating budget covers the costs associated with its staff, basic supplies and equipment, projects such as the restoration of the savanna wouldn’t be possible without grant funding, Metz said.
“We want to do those extra things; those are the kinds of things that are hard to get into your budget. To have this outside money is a boon. That’s how we’ve existed and done all of these nice things — with the extra grant money that’s come in,” Metz said. “We’ve always had a good relationship with the REMC, and they’ve helped us a lot in the past.”
The department has received multiple grants over the years through LaGrange County REMC’s EnviroWatts program, as well as Operation Round Up, which have been used to help control invasive plant species at its properties and plant seed mix to add natural diversity to Dallas Lake County Park.
After more than 30 years as the director of the parks and recreation department, Metz is proud of what the team has accomplished with the help of the community and the generous members of LaGrange County REMC.
“My goal has been to develop a quality system of parks, and I think we’ve done that over the last 30 years,” Metz said. “We’ve been pretty successful with grants and such. We’ve been able to develop a lot for a small rural county.”
For more information on the EnviroWatts program, visit the LaGrange County REMC website at lagrangeremc.com or call our office at 877-463-7165.