“Education, I fear, is learning to see one thing by going blind to another. One thing most of us have gone blind to is the quality of marshes. I am reminded of this when, as a special favor, I take a visitor to Clandeboye, only to find that, to him, it is merely lonelier to look upon, and stickier to navigate, than other boggy places.” Aldo Leopold, “Clandeboye,” in A Sand County Almanac (1949)
This quote can be found in “The Natural Heritage of Indiana” Edited by Marion T. Jackson and originally published in 1997. If you look on page 69 of this stunningly beautiful book, you will read about the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council‘s second major project, undertaken in 1987.
Like a lot of lakes over time, Lake Maxinkuckee had lost many of its wetlands due to filling for development and draining for farming. With fewer wetlands, the lake was affected by fertilizer-laden sediment and chemicals entering the watershed from farmland and other sources. LMEC volunteer members, (concerned citizens, farmers, and community leaders) joined with the Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife, along with the Division of Soil Conservation’s Lake and River Enhancement Program, to build Indiana’s first man-made wetland, helping to filter pollutants before they reach the lake.
This wetland sits on the legally named Wilson Ditch, which begins in surrounding farm fields in the east, then runs west and northward into property owned by the Culver Military Academy at the northeast corner of St. Rt. 10 and Queen Road. There the ditch passes through the wetland, then turns west into the CMA bird sanctuary on the west side of Queen Road. After leaving the bird sanctuary, it crosses back south across St. Rt. 10 and continues along county road 117 jogging west into Lake Maxinkuckee. The Wilson carries water from 1,703 acres north and east of Lake Maxinkuckee.
This ditch is one of the three main tributaries into Lake Maxinkuckee. It is tested regularly by LMEC for water quality. The wetland is maintained under the supervision of the LMEC by Culver Military Academy personnel.
In 2007, the Indiana Department of Transportation wanted to change the configuration of the Queen Road/St Rt 10 intersection. Before they could begin, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Lake Maxinkuckee Environmental Council joined them to save this precious wetland. The ditch was widened south of the intersection and the culvert running under St Rt 10 replaced. Great care was taken to protect the wetland, downstream from the ditch reconstruction, from disturbed sediment entering the stream. A stream bank planting plan was approved by LMEC to encourage bank stabilization. The project was completed when the Culver area had one of its hardest winters in years. January 1, 2008 the ditch bank walls collapsed from the snow and heavy flow through the ditch, rolling the core logs into the stream, collapsing the northern bank. The second photo is looking north towards the wetland.