Those who have joined us for wildflower walks through Bell Woods know just what an incredibly special place it is. In early spring, the great blue herons return to their rookery in an ancient sycamore tree near the center of the property to re-establish nests and raise the next generation. A spectacular trillium bloom carpets the forest floor, interspersed with widespread vernal pool wetlands that offer a glance of our natural history and the historic Great Black Swamp that once covered our region.
In 2013, the Conservancy worked with the owners of the woods to ensure its permanent protection with a conservation agreement. Since then we have worked together to manage the property and share it with others through public programming. Now, as life takes the owners in other directions, Black Swamp Conservancy has secured a Clean Ohio grant to purchase Bell Woods.
“Purchasing title to Bell Woods secures use of this important resource for educational and community purposes,” said executive director Rob Krain. The property lies directly across the road from Eastwood Schools, a K-12 campus. Classes from Bowling Green State University also use it frequently for research projects and other field-based learning.
Access to Bell Woods will continue to be limited to scheduled programming to reduce stress on the property’s sensitive habitats, but future plans may include a boardwalk to allow more access while minimizing footwear on the soil and protecting the rarest areas. The Conservancy’s adjacent Pat & Clint Mauk’s Prairie features a mowed walking trail that is open to the public from dawn to dusk 365 days a year.
The wetlands at Bell Woods are classified as Category 3, meaning that they are of the highest biological integrity. More than a dozen rare species are known to inhabit the property, and an inventory of the Vegetation Index of Biotic Integrity was conducted in 2021 and identified an astonishing 73 unique species per 1,000 square meter plots.