Students create floating wetland for Kiwanis-Teledyne Park

May 23, 2019

La PORTE — A group of La Porte High School students have been helping to improve conditions at Kiwanis-Teledyne Park.

Students from Rob Walker’s Natural Resources class joined Nicole Messacar, education coordinator for the La Porte County Soil and Water Conservation District, in putting together a floating wetland that will be installed in the center of the Pine Lake inlet near the park.

The idea for the wetland came about while the Soil and Water Conservation District was working with Park Superintendent, Mark Schreiber on a plan to deal with the erosion around Pine Lake. The installation will help beautify the park and clear some of the water going into Pine Lake.

The installation will provide some additional space for ducks to play and fish to swim under and feed.

“We wanted it to be attractive. It’s the first thing you see when you come into the city from kind of both directions. The Park Board wanted it to be kidney shaped,” Messacar said.

The floating wetland was funded with grant money awarded to the Soil and Water Conservation District by Clean Water Indiana. The grant money is derived from the Soil and Water Conservation Board’s portion of cigarette taxes.

The wetland was constructed from man-made material and planted with native wetland plants.

“It kind of reminds me of one of those dish-scrubber things. It’s like a high density, permeable, plastic foam,” explained Messacar.

Walker’s students gathered at the park after school on May 15 to plant the native species into the spongy wetland material. Some of the plants included Queen of the Prairie, Swamp Milkweed, Ohio Spiderwort, Bullrush and Duck Potato.

“They are all good wetland plants that will hopefully do the job,” Messacar assured.

Although the plants will be floating on water, they will need to get water in the beginning, as their roots will be unable to penetrate the wetland material. Eventually the plant’s roots will grow down and through the foam.

Once the roots reach beneath the wetland material, the nutrients from the grass below will feed the native plants growing on top of the wetland.

“They should put on a lot of vegetative growth this year. The flowers will probably bloom next year — they put all of their first year energy into stem,” Messacar said.

Installing the wetland has proven to be the real challenge for the team. Still unsure of how to approach the situation, Messacar told the group, “I think what we’ll do is fill up some five gallon buckets with cement, connect them to stainless steel chains and walk it out into the inlet.”

The approach will make the floating wetland look more natural than it would being tethered to land. The group hopes that it will also reduce the risk of vandalism to the installation, so that the floating wetland can stay a part of Kiwanis-Teledyne Park’s beautiful landscape for year to come.

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