A Place for People to Enjoy Nature

The Dr. Robert L. Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve on Catawba Island is well on its way to becoming a new, special resource for nature lovers. The 40-acre lakeshore property on West Harbor has been Conservancy property since 2019. Since then, we’ve been working with our management partners at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge to restore wildlife habitat, and create a natural space for the community to enjoy.

This will be a preserve that invites guests in to wander and explore. A mowed walking path loops through an 8-acre shortgrass prairie and pollinator meadow and along undeveloped Lake Erie shoreline. Rustic visitor amenities including a gravel parking area have been added. Thanks to a grant secured by the Friends of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, we will be installing an ADA-compliant kayak launch later this year. This will be one of the few places where people who use wheelchairs will have easy access to paddle the waters of Lake Erie. The preserve is on the Mainland Trail of the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails.

“This beautiful property has great conservation value,” said Melanie Coulter, conservation manager of the Black Swamp Conservancy. “We are developing shoreline and scrub-shrub habitat that will provide for migratory birds (and birders), and protect important wildlife habitat year-round.”

The property has a diversity of land uses with the meadow providing habitat for butterflies, bees and other pollinators, acres of open woodlands, and the littoral zone or nearshore area.

Rob Krain, executive director, added, “Any opportunity to preserve shoreline on Catawba Island is a special one. Open spaces in this area face a great deal of development pressure. If they aren’t conserved now they will likely be
lost forever.”

A private, soft opening of the preserve will be held on July 17th for the Nehls family and partners in the project. The property will be open to the public from dawn to dusk beginning Sunday, July 18th.