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Centre County Master Gardeners volunteer at Muddy Paws Marsh

Posted: May 7, 2014

Muddy Paws Marsh, located in Spring Mills, was a mowed field when Greg and Mary Kay Williams purchased it in 1991. Originally a thriving wetland, the property had been drained around 1940 for agricultural purposes.

With the aim of providing the public with education and appreciation of wetlands, the Williams allied with local, state and federal agencies in 2000 to restore Muddy Paws Marsh to its original glory. The cooperative effort resulted in a project that is a model of environmental stewardship and education.

The Penns Valley Conservation Association (PVCA) began offering environmental education about wetlands at the property in 2001 with funding from a DEP Growing Greener grant. Full wetlands restoration began in 2004 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited and PVCA worked collaboratively to restore the wetlands habitat through the Partners for Wildlife program. In 2005, PVCA installed a boardwalk and five outdoor educational signs to encourage nature appreciation. Two years later, Clearwater Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Conservation District worked together to find a bio-control (rather than herbicide) solution to eradicate invasive purple loosestrife using Galerucella beetles.  Monitoring by Clearwater shows that loosestrife populations have declined, and now Clearwater and Penn State’s Riparia wetlands center are working to re-populate the marsh with native wetland plant species.

The successful restoration has led to Muddy Paws Marsh’s enrollment with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the area is expected to become a permanent easement in the Wetland Reserve conservation program.

Over the years, an estimated 3,500 individuals, including students and community members, have visited and gained appreciation of the value of wetland habitat at Muddy Paws Marsh. The Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Centre County have been a wonderful resource by volunteering for educational events and creating and helping to care for the Pollinator Garden on site.