Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
DeSotoNational Wildlife RefugePartners with Blair Community to Create Arbor Park Native Grasses and Flowers Area
Midwest Region, October 31, 2012
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Overview of the Arbor Park prairie in Blair, Nebraska.
Overview of the Arbor Park prairie in Blair, Nebraska. - Photo Credit: Ken Block/USFWS
Insect on purple coneflower in the new Arbor Park vative grasses and flowers area.
Insect on purple coneflower in the new Arbor Park vative grasses and flowers area. - Photo Credit: Ken Block/USFWS
Purple prairie clover in bloom.
Purple prairie clover in bloom. - Photo Credit: Ken Block/USFWS

The Arbor Park Native Grasses and Native Flower Area is a two-acre nature area created to enhance outdoor education opportunities at the Blair Community Schools. It is located on the school grounds of Arbor Park Elementary School, in Blair, Neb.

The nature area is a project that has many key organizations and individuals help to maintain it. Organizations involved in the native grasses and flowers area include DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Blair Community Schools, CF Industries, PSC, Boy Scout Troop 232 and the Papio Natural Resources District. Individuals involved in the native grasses and flowers area include Ethan Wick, Wyatt Moore, Dale Clark, Denny Fenderson, Todd Wick and Blair Community School students.Arbor Park teachers take their classes out on the trail to study native grasses, native flowers, insects, and birds. Fifth grade students will be able to walk the trail, make observations, draw conclusions, make inferences, and record their discoveries in their naturalist journals. The area provides an authentic learning area for students.

The DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge staff helped with providing roundup to kill the existing grasses, native grasses and native flower seeds, reused landscaping fabric from the levees built prior to the flood, and their guidance throughout this process. Blair Community Schools provided the manpower to spray the roundup, plant the grass seeds and native flower seeds. CF Industries and Papio NRD helped through grants that provided funds to buy additional native flower seed for next year. PSI provided 80 tons of crushed concrete and the transportation of the crushed concrete to the site. This crushed concrete was used for the 217 yard long nature trail that wanders through the native grasses and flower area. Boy Scout Troop 232 provided the manpower to rake, smooth, and level the concrete once the concrete was dumped onto the fabric. This was Ethan Wick’s Eagle Scout project. He oversaw the planning and construction of the nature trail.

The native grasses and flowers area started during the summer of 2011. During 2011, different organizations were contacted to help aid in providing funds, materials, and man power for this project. First the roundup was applied by one of the grounds staff members of Blair Community Schools. Then native grasses and native flowers seeds were planted a few weeks later. Initially, the first year’s growth appeared to be somewhat unsuccessful. Very few grasses and flowers were identified.The spring of 2012 saw the addition of the 217 yard long oval trail. The trail is eight feet wide allowing people to travel through the area quite easily. By early summer, the successful plantings of the native grasses and flowers were starting to show. Grayhead prairie coneflowers, black eyed-susans, Illinois bundle Flowers, Plains Coreiopsis, Daisy Fleabane, Missouri Goldenrod, Maximilian’s Sunflower, Big Blue Stem, Little Blue Stem, and the Silky prairie clover were seen in various parts of the native grasses and native flower area. The color of yellow dominated the native flowers. By fall of 2012, most of the blooming was done, but the grasses started to dominate the area due to some rapid growth during the month of August and September.

This resource will be used by students to study native grasses, flowers and phenological changes throughout the school year. Community members are welcome to visit the prairie and walk the trail. Blair Community Schools also partner with DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge through an outdoor education partnership where students visit DeSoto Refuge several times a year for curriculum based environmental education lessons.

Contact Info: Ashley Danielson, 712-388-4800, ashley_danielson@fws.gov
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