Wood Lake Nature Center re-opens boardwalk
There has been a void at Wood Lake Nature Center since last spring: the boardwalk crossing the center of the marsh has been out of commission and closed to the public. That all changed on the morning on Tuesday, May 19, when the ribbon was cut and the newly constructed boardwalk was open to the public.
Being out in the open means that the boardwalk is at the mercy of the elements. On April 2, 2019, a confluence of environmental conditions, including unseasonable high rain accumulations and heavy winds ripped the boardwalk from its moorings, making it unsafe for nature center visitors to traverse.
The planning process for a new boardwalk began almost immediately.
“The process to re-build the boardwalk went as smooth as possible, in light of extreme water fluctuations, working on the ice in the winter, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Recreation Services Director Amy Markle. “Overall, we are happy with the new boardwalk and are excited for the community to experience it and for the nature center staff to be able to utilize it again for the many environmental education classes they conduct.”
The boardwalk repair and renovations took longer than expected to complete. The main reason for the lengthy project was the fact that the new boardwalk was to be built in the winter on top of the ice, and then allowed to settle into place as the ice thawed in the spring.
The new design will hold up to harsher environmental conditions, most importantly the ability to adapt better to greater fluctuations in water depth.
“Every time it rains an inch in Richfield, the water depth of Wood Lake’s march increases by a foot,” said nature center naturalist Brianna Rodgers. “The posts of the new boardwalk go farther down into the marsh and the entrance and exit ramps provide a better transition to the trails no matter the water depth.
The most noticeable difference in the new boardwalk is that it curves toward the south, as opposed to the north. It also has more than twice as many posts holding it in place and the railings are a little different.
“Since the boardwalk has been out of commission, the number one question we get at the nature center is ‘when will the boardwalk be up and running again,’” stated nature center manager Paul Smithson. “It is an iconic part of the Wood Lake experience and it has sorely been missed.”
In the end, the park system now feels complete with the boardwalk operational again.
“The boardwalk is one of the centerpieces of the Richfield park system. It is enjoyed by thousands of residents, students and visitors to the city each year,” remarked Markle. “It provides users with a unique sensory experience of going into a wetland ecosystem and seeing, hearing, and smelling the vital natural world around them. Visitors are able to really see the habitat the marsh provides to dozens of wildlife species and learn how it functions to store and clean the water from the area watershed.”
Now, with the boardwalk back in place, Wood Lake Nature Center and its trails, feel complete once more.