BERRIEN CENTER — Berrien County Parks officials will speak to Berrien Township trustees tonight at their 7 p.m. meeting about a proposed controlled burn in the Indian Bowl section of Love Creek Park.
“A controlled burn is much safer than a wildfire,” which could be sparked by lightning or other causes, according to Derek Pelc, chief naturalist at Love Creek.
The burn would be conducted to remove the underbrush and dead grasses that could provide fuel for a wildfire, Pelc said. The overgrowth also blocks out rare native plant and animal species, he said. Wetlands provide a natural water filtration system and absorb excess precipitation, helping to lessen flooding.
The burn had been planned for earlier this year, but was postponed to address the concerns of township officials and residents. Main concerns have been who would conduct the burn, and how it would be managed and contained within the county boundaries.
If it goes forward, the burn would be conducted by Blue Heron Ministries, based in Abngola, Ind., which specializes in wetlands restoration. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources would provide fire support. The ideal time to conduct a burn is in the spring.
Indian Bowl, which is west of Hochberger Road, actually covers between 400 and 500 acres, Pelc said. About 95 acres of that is owned by Berrien County, and the fire would be contained within those boundaries. The property was donated to the Nature Conservancy in 1995, and then acquired by Berrien County in 1998.
The agreement was that once the land was handed over, the county would manage it, Pelc said.
The property is designated a wet prairie fen, with peat soil, which Pelc said is globally rare. It is one of the biggest habitats of its kind in Michigan, he said. Common plant species there include prairie grasses, sumac, and cattails.
Non-native cattails, gray dogwood and poison sumac are among the plants that are threatening native growth, Pelc said.
The property is “not user-friendly” and is suitable for regular park use, he explained.
The meeting will be held at 8916 M-140 in Berrien Center.
Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak