When settlers came to Iowa, much of the natural wonder of the land was lost to homes and crops. Today, there are few remaining untouched plots left in the state. That was in the 1800s.
The Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve was one of those plowed landscapes, but some portions survived in their natural state. In 1983-84, a precious 17 acres of native prairie were purchased by Marshall County Conservation and then dedicated as Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve. Then, in 2004-2006, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Marshall County Conservation led the effort to add 212 acres to Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve — including nearly 56 acres more of sand prairie remnant. Since 2005, INHF has been working to restore and revitalize the land through countless seed harvests.
And it’s finally paid off. On Saturday, Oct. 3 upwards of forty volunteers came together for INHF’s second-largest workday of the year. INHF members, volunteers, Iowa Prairie Network board members and Marshall County Conservation board officials were all present and eager to help out.
Volunteers at the Marietta Sand Prairie State Preserve
“We truly could not have been that effective without the volunteers we had that day,” Mary Runkel, INHF volunteer coordinator said.
Volunteers making apple cider
Workers collected seed to build up the once-plentiful seed bank within the land. Their efforts are extremely important to conservation as INHF works toward restoring this rare remnant sand prairie.
“It’s so important to INHF that we keep the seeds local,” Runkel said. “The seeds from Marietta will stay to grow at Marietta.”
The volunteer group was treated to fresh apple cider made with an apple press on site.
The seeds from this harvest will be sowed later next year, which will mark the final planting and restoration completion. Planting this final portion at last connects the preserve with prairie remnants and completes INHF’s original vision: To preserve this rare prairie legacy, and to create an extensive interior grassland habitat for songbirds, pheasants and so many other species.