Oxbow, Inc.

 

Protecting and Preserving Wetlands

P.O. Box 4172, Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

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Oxbow Updates

From time to time we will add new information to this page so check it out often!

 

St. Lawrence Elementary Project

What's Taking Flight

The Role of Education

A River Runs through it --- AGAIN!

What's Taking Flight?

A Gift From Heaven

Oxbow Acquires a Home

Gift from the Estate of Jinny (Wiseman) Witte Goes to Support Nature Education

Oxbow Area Recognized as Part of Audubon Important Bird Area

It Was a Long Hot Summer

Morris Mercer Receives Environmental Educator Award

Audubon as in John James At the Oxbow

Purchase of CSX Property

Purchase of Whitacre Property Adds 40 Acres to the Oxbow

A Tree for You, A Mudflat for Me

The Birthday Party was a Picnic

 

 

 

 

St Lawrence Elementary Project

(added April 2014)

 

Every year Oxbow, Inc. offers grants to schools who submit appropriate proposals.  This is the garden project at St. Lawrence Elementary that Oxbow, Inc. helped fund 2 years ago. Watch this video on YouTube describing their project:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo-rHtpQmj0  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EIS4LFSsKY.

 

 

 

What's Taking Flight

by Jon Seymour

(from Wetland Matters, January-February, 2011)

 

Our 25th Anniversary Year has come to a close and it seems like it had two years worth of activities crowded into one.

 

We conducted 3 bus tours of the Oxbow, com­pleted the graveling of the Oxbow Lake Road (Shell to Slot) with many more loads of gravel, added 3 new bird species to Oxbow's ever growing list, hosted thousands of visitors, conducted the Cincinnati Area Birdathon, held our anniversary celebration photography contest, conducted dozens of educational programs, and built two roadway stabilization projects to name a few of the accomplishments of our all volunteer organization. Each year when I write this column my mouth drops with amazement at all that the volunteers who love the Oxbow accomplish.

 

On July 18, 2010 we had our 25`h Anniversary Members Picnic (we had only one other previous members picnic for our 201h Anniversary) which was well attended. Displays of Oxbow activities were set up around the air conditioned Agner Hall. A table was set aside for entertainment activities for children. Tours of the Oxbow were provided by Steve Pelikan and John Getzendanner. Our featured speaker was Board Member and Founding Director, David Styer, all the way from his home in California to tell us about the behind the scenes story of the formation of the Save the Oxbow Society and Oxbow, Inc. A summer picnic buffet of brats, metts, and burgers with sides and trimmings completed the occasion. In our 25 years of existence we have acquired title to about 940 acres of land and purchased conservation easements on an additional 230 acres. All the members and supporters of Oxbow, Inc. can be extremely proud of this accomplishment.

 

As part of the anniversary celebration we sponsored a photo contest open to all local photographers in a variety of nature categories. Cash prizes were provided by Seapine Software, a business software company, and by Kelly Riccitti, cofounder of Seapine Software.

 

Contest winners were selected by a panel of professional nature photographers, Steve Maslowski, Ron Austing, and Ed Hatch. A great time was had by all the participants in the contest and Oxbow, Inc. greatly appreciated being the recipient of all the excellent submissions. Win­ing photos in the various categories are being published in Wetland Matters in the last half of 2010 and into 2011.

A highlight of 2010 was the acquisition of another 30 acres for Oxbow, Inc. Well, we did and did not actually gain property. The acquisition was a gift of the 30 acre Corning Property by long term supporter, Barbara Corning, to Oxbow, Inc. Oxbow, Inc. already held the conservation easement on this property so it was already protected, but ownership gives us additional control over the future use of the land. As many of you know, the Corning Property was taken out of agricultural production nearly 20 years ago and planted in White Oak, Ash, and Bald Cypress. Many of the Bald Cypress on the property now stand 20 feet high with 6" diameter trunks. The property came with an extra benefit. It was in the USDA Crop Reduction Program (CRP) and a yearly payment is made to Oxbow, Inc. to keep the land out of production. The Board voted to put this s payment into the education fund established to provide grant money to lo­cal educators to conduct nature related education pro­grams.

 

Roads and access have been an issue in the Oxbow probably since before the arrival of the Europeans to the area. This year we spread more gravel on the Oxbow Lake Rd. (the Shell to Slot road) making it passable even after a hard rain. Oops, we did not get any of those after the 4th of July! But it was passable, as demonstrated this fall when the rains finally returned. In the past two winters there have been washouts on the Oxbow Lake Road that in spite of our best efforts, actually caused accidents when the road was driven too fast to see the approaching washout. The washouts were caused by high floods flowing over the road between Oxbow Lake and the recently created Osprey Lake . A new culvert and a new spillway to take pressure off the soft areas of the road have been created and hopefully will eliminate this con­cern and again keep the road open more days out of the year. Remember if you are driving in the Oxbow that no matter how good the road is you should not try to drive it if it is UNDER water.

 

Bus tours have returned to the Oxbow, made possible by the improved roads. Buses from Evergreen, Maple Knoll, and the Cincinnati Museum Center all made successful visits to the Oxbow. Buses are a wonderful way for persons with limited mobility to get around the Oxbow and see some of the wildlife and plants. The Museum Center Tour was actually part of the 2010 Heritage Tour Program. This was an all day emersion into all things Oxbow, from the geology, to the archaeology, to the natural history and wildlife. Lectures were given by a college professor, a Museum Center staff researcher, and by Oxbow volunteer naturalists. Throw in lunch at the River Watch on the Ohio River and a perfect day was had by all.

 

Oxbow, Inc. commissioned Dr. Denis Conover, an Oxbow Board Member, to do a plant survey as a follow-up to the one he did in 2000. In 2000 he found 422 species of them considered rare in Ohio or Indiana . The four plants are Deam's our Mercury (Acalypha deamii), Erect Primrose-willow (Ludwigia decurrens), Virginia Buttonweed (Diodia virginiana), and Smooth Buttonweed (Spermacoce glabra). Denis predicts that River Broomrape (Orobanche riparia) will be the next rare plant. Specimens were found just up river in 2010. River Broomrape is parasite on giant ragweed and the lower Oxbow area has tons of Giant Ragweed to serve as host. In a paper co-authored with Dr. Steve Pelikan, Oxbow, Inc. Board member, Dr. Conover reported that his survey findings for Miami Whitewater (2005-2008) and the Oxbow (2010) showed that many plants were blooming earlier than they were in a similar surveys conducted 10 years earlier. This important paper is being widely quoted as it is one of the first to demonstrate early bloom­ing correlating to increased average temperatures during the surveys in native plants in a native (non garden/cultivated) habitat. We are very proud of Denis and Steve for producing this important scientific work and even more proud of the role that the Oxbow played in producing the data.

 

In 2010 alone we presented a wide variety of programs and tours over the course of the year. Besides the speakers at the I1 members meetings and the 11 guided nature walks we advertise in the Wetland Matters we made presentations for the following:

  • Western Wildlife Corridor Wildflower Festival
  • The Environmental Class at Seven Hills High School
  • Mt. Sinai United Methodist Church

Our sponsorship of the Cincinnati Area Birdathon once again raised nearly $6000 to improve access and habitat in the Oxbow. More birders participated this year than we have seen for several years past. Even more impor­tantly 13 of the 55 participants were under the age of 19. Not only is the Birdathon bringing area birders together for a great time and an opportunity to raise some money for a good cause, but it is bringing young birders out for an introduction to the fun of being out in nature and learning a few of the never ending stories that nature can teach us.

 

I keep thinking of more things like the prairie we tried to burn but it would not ignite, the trash pick-ups, the invasive plant control, the Miami University study of point pollution sources (still underway) that would take up even more space in this essay. Did I mention at the start of this that we are an all volunteer organization? I am in awe of our volunteers. Thank you all, nearly 100 individuals, who played some role in these accomplishments.


The Role of Education

by Jon Seymour

(from Wetland Matters, September-October, 2010)

 

Oxbow is about nature, and saving habitat, and enhancing biodiversity, but it is also about education. The Oxbow area serves as a large classroom for many learners of all ages. Many of you are familiar with our monthly educational meetings with a wide variety of speakers and with our monthly hikes for birding, plants, and nature (yes, these are educational and not just for exercise). Less familiar are the other activities we do for education. Elsewhere in this newsletter, Velda Miller, head of our educational grant committee, is announcing our grant application process to fund local educational projects that have to do with nature, biodiversity, and sustainability. Also you will find an article by Jill Russell one of the early recipients of our educational grants. I think you will find these interesting and we look forward to having a significant and positive local impact on nature education in the Tristate area. This has been made possible by the generous gift of Ginny (Wiseman) Witte and the wise stewardship of the Board of Directors of Oxbow, Inc. We are always happy to accept other donations to the education fund to advance the nature education of local young people.

 

But that is not all. Groups of local photographers have gathered to learn nature photography, students from Ivy Tech have come to enjoy a biology 101 lesson, students from The College of Mount St. Joseph learn bird identification and natural history of birds, boy and girl scout groups have learned basic ecology, organized groups of home school children have had elementary biology lessons, the Master’s class from the Environmental Institute of Miami University learns about success of grass roots environmental groups. That is only the beginning with garden clubs, retirement centers, business groups, volunteer groups from other nature centers and more coming to the Oxbow to learn about the unique ecology, geology and hydrology of the area. Throw in a few more “-ologys” such as geology, archaeology, and limnology and you still have not covered all the areas of learning and education that the Oxbow makes available to the residents of the Tristate area.

 

This role of the Oxbow as an educator is one of the roles we are most proud of. This role continues to expand as we look for more ways to bring the message of conservation of nature to the residents of the Tristate.


A River Runs through it --- AGAIN!

by Jon Seymour

(from Wetland Matters, October, 2009)

 

Mark Jansen called me and wanted to know if Oxbow, Inc. would be interested in buying his property in the Horseshoe Bottoms. I said we might be interested and arranged for Mark to meet me at the office and show me where his property was and to see if Oxbow was interested.

 

The property Mark showed me was one of the white areas on our map (still in private hands, see www.oxbowinc,info for a view of our map of all our holdings) that was located on the Indiana/Ohio border right where the Great Miami comes out of Ohio for the first time and enters Indiana. It was adjacent to the conservation easements we hold north of the I-275 Enterprises RV Park. The parcel also contains the mouth of Double Lick Creek, the creek that was dammed to create Hidden Valley Lake. According to Mark’s survey the property was much larger than we had previously thought, comprising nearly 36 acres. Part of the property lies on the east bank of the Great Miami River.

I took Mark’s proposal to the Board and they approved negotiation to purchase the land. After about 2 months of negotiation we reached an agreement and on July 15th we concluded the sale of 36 acres of land (actually about ½ is under the Great Miami River) for a price of $1700 per acre. After fees, taxes, and insurance costs were added and subtracted the final total was $61,920.80. To this total the survey costs and the legal fees will be added to determine the final cost basis for the land. As part of the sale agreement the Jansen family will retain the right to camp on a portion of the property for the next 30 years. The property can only be reached by the river or by crossing land that is owned by others so access will not be open to Oxbow members except on official Oxbow Inc. business.

 

This purchase pushes the total property protected by Oxbow, Inc. by either land ownership or by conservation easements to over 1100 acres. It also gives us another critical portion of the river bank that needs to be stabilized to reduce erosive cutting of the bank. Photos of the property are on page XXX. Oxbow, Inc. is particularly excited about this purchase as this represents the only land we own fee simple that lies north of the I-275 Enterprises RV Park and is only our second property that encompasses the east bank of the Great Miami River.


What's Taking Flight 2008?

by Jon Seymour

(from Wetland Matters January-February, 2009)

 

With the end of the year coming up fast, I am reminded that it is again time to review our progress for the year 2008. It has been a very busy year with lots going on but in one way it was disappointing. That disappointment was our inability to expand Oxbow holdings during the year. We are willing buyers but the purchase of land requires willing sellers and currently that is not happening. We continue to wait and watch in the hope that the few remaining owners in the valley will reach a point where they wish to sell their land. While the number of parcels remaining is few, the number of acres in those parcels is large and will require a great deal of money to close the purchase. We continue to build our funds to make the purchase of these acres a reality when they become available.

 

Now for the good news! This has been another banner year for Oxbow on many fronts. With the aid of a grant from the Earl and Florence Simmonds Foundation we rented our first office space for the business end of Oxbow, Inc. The new office located at 301 Walnut St. in downtown Lawrenceburg gives us a face and location in our next door neighbor city. It also provides a wonderful space for our collection of corporate records, research files and donated items (previously stored in a variety of basements). In addition it serves as a center of operations for Oxbow, Inc. becoming our new meeting space for educational programs, tours, and Board meetings. The office is open by appointment only, since there is no staff, but if you wish to visit come for an educational meeting or call me at 513-851-9835.

 

At the beginning of the year the Board decided that an effort to improve the roads within the Oxbow would yield a series of benefits. First, better roads would allow greater access (more drivable days per year) to viewing the wildlife in the Oxbow, allowing members and visitors to share in the wonder and excitement of the active ecosystem the Oxbow represents. Second, better roads would keep drivers from using the fields to get around bad spots in the road thereby preventing destruction of the agricultural fields by well meaning visitors. Third, better roads discourage people who see Oxbow roads as a "truck commercial" and like to challenge their 4-wheel drive trucks to see if they can handle the mud ruts of the Oxbow roads. With fewer ruts and less damage to adjacent fields we would save a lot of Volunteer time and expense in repairing the roads each year. We graveled the Oxbow Lake road between the Hardintown entrance and the Oxbow Lake overlook. We also graveled some low spots in the road that abuts the Lawrenceburg Conservancy District (LCD) mitigation area. These two projects together made the "Shell to Slot" auto trip a low risk reality most of 2009. We also graveled the road that parallels the railroad track from the LCD to the railroad track crossover near Wood Duck Slough. In future years we will continue the project to gravel most of the roads in the Oxbow where we have ownership and work with other land owners to see if we can cooperate on roads crossing their property. We realize that due to the nature of the soils within the Oxbow we will need to apply fresh "skim" coats on previous graveled areas from time to time in order to maintain drivability.

 

We continued our clean-up days to get rid of trash in the Oxbow. We still get a lot of trash each year from floods and unfortunately a lot that is directly dumped in the Oxbow by individuals that we wish were better educated about protecting the environment. The good news is that we are getting less and less trash each year and finding fewer tires. If the area has never been picked up (and there are a few of the more remote areas that have not been) we still find years of trash accumulation. But if we have cleaned an area, it now stays pretty clean. We are getting to the point where we only have to clear away the most recent accumulation of trash. In addition to the trash removal we have added removal of invasive plants from key areas of the Oxbow. This effort will continue to grow as the problem of invasive plants is growing throughout the Midwest . You will see more opportunities to help in this effort as we schedule days for removal and announce them in Wetland Matters and on our website.

 

In the Spring we received a legacy gift from the estate of Jinny (Wiseman) Witte that the Board decided to dedicate as an endowment for Oxbow, Inc. The income from the endowment will be put back into the endowment to build it for future use. Since the gift was in form of stocks and bonds it has taken a hit from the current financial situa­tion. However the gift does not completely come under our control for 10 years from the time of Jinny's passing - there Should be plenty of time for recovery and growth. Jinny also left a smaller legacy gift from a charitable trust she had established. The Board decided to honor Jinny and her first husband, Art Wiseman. both founders of Oxbow, Inc., by establishing a fund for nature education. The first grant from this Fund, covered in part by an additional education grant from Kathryn and Vishnoo Shahani, supported the first Cincinnati Birding Festival, sponsored through the auspices of the College of Mount St. Joseph. The grant provided binoculars, bird books, and reusable instructional materials for the young people attending the festival's scheduled bird walks and for participating community school teachers to teach classes related to the birding festival.

 

The spring brought the return of our major yearly fund raiser, the Cincinnati Area Birdathon. This year was spectacular with an outstanding 197 species being identified within the Birdathon Area during a single 24 hour period. An astonishing 17 teams participated with two teams splitting their donations between Oxbow and the team sponsor­ing organization (Audubon Society and the Cincinnati Nature Center). Over $5,500 was raised for habitat and access improvement projects within the Oxbow.

 

The work of several years of collecting observations of bird life in the Oxbow bore fruit this summer. The efforts of Dave Styer and Jay Stenger in collecting and submitting those observations to the Ohio Audubon Society resulted in the Oxbow Area being named part of an Important Bird Area (Lower Great Miami Valley) by the Ohio Audubon Society. This honor is shared with the Hamilton County Park District parks that line the lower Great Miami Valley. Look for Important Bird Area signs at our entrances. This designation recognizes the preservation of crucial habitat in the lower Great Miami Valley by Oxbow, Inc. and the Hamilton County Park District. In the case of the Oxbow area we have records for 283 species of birds using the Oxbow. It is not only the variety but the rarity and numbers of the birds using the area. Migrating ducks and Summering herons and egrets use the area in large concentrations. More recently the number and variety of raptor sightings in the area has increased markedly, adding an exclamation point to the value of the habitat.

 

Habitat improvement remains one of our primary goals. Here we have had some setbacks as well as some successes. We had two setbacks on our plans to make some major habitat improvements. The first setback was finding out that our application for a waiver from needing a state permit to impound about 14 acres of water during the winter in a flooded farm field, was rejected by the Indiana DNR. This is only a temporary setback and we will be pursuing getting the necessary permits to allow us to complete the Seasonal Flooding Project. Unfortunately the permit process is more costly than doing it without the need for a permit. However the Board feels that the value to wildlife of the impoundment during the winter is well worth the expenditure of the money needed to obtain the permit. The other setback involved our agreement with the Indiana DOT for a mitigation project along the southwest border of Oxbow Lake. This agreement was made several years ago and we expected the project to be completed a long time ago. As time dragged on without the INDOT starting the project, our inquiries uncovered the fact that the State had failed to consider the need to do archaeological work in the area prior to starting the shoreline restoration. This was going to add an appreciable extra cost to the project and the State was getting cold feet on whether they wanted to do this or seek another property that was cheaper. We offered the State a way around their problem but we could not agree on the details and the deal was cancelled. The good news is that we had let the area go fallow for 4 years and bank restoration had started on its own due to natural succession of plants mov­ing into the former agricultural field. Also on the positive side we have continued our association with the Friends of the Great Miami who have run projects planting trees in the former INDOT site to enhance the bank restoration. They also have started a project on the shore of the Great Miami River to plant about 2/3 of an acre in trees in a 1400 foot strip along the Great Miami River

 

I have come this far without hardly mentioning any animals but they have been spectacular as usual. One of the highlights of the year was the great good fortune of photographer Ken Geiger who stumbled on a family of River Otters and who had the patience and the skill to turn his good fortune into over 400 photos of an otter family at rest and at play. Prior to this the photographs of otters using the Oxbow were just distant heads in the water. We were thrilled to have this intimate portrait of wild otters at home in the Oxbow. Thousands of ducks and geese took advantage of our new improved wildlife crop policies with our tenant farmers. Winter counts from the Oxbow showed heavy use of the flooded crop areas. During the Great Outdoor Weekend while the regular tour group was watching a Peregrine Falcon strafe shorebirds in the Oxbow, Jay Stenger and Paul Wharton were leading an Audubon class in the Oxbow across the valley under the shadow of the hill at Shawnee Lookout and spotted a record 8 Bald Eagles. A new species sighted in the Oxbow was 3 Lesser Blackbacked Gulls that showed up for Jay and Paula Stenger this spring and at least it stayed for Paul Wharton to check it out the next morning. In June, Jon Seymour and Lonnie Parker found a Black Scoter and a Cattle Egret. A couple of intriguing sightings of summertime Sandhill Cranes in August and September rounded out the most unusual reports. The number of Bald Eagle sightings continues to climb in both numbers and frequency of reports.

 

Every trip to the Oxbow yields something new and I want to invite members and friends who have not been to the Oxbow or maybe have not been for a long time to come back and renew your acquaintance with the Oxbow area. In this day of local vacations, local foods, and local entertain­ment, the Oxbow is your local fix on nature as it is meant to be experienced. Come and enjoy and when you leave spread the word about (dating myself — as Jackie Gleason would say) "How Great It IS!


A Gift from Heaven

(from Wetland Matters, May-June, 2008)

 

We have received another gift from the estate of Jinny(Wiseman)Witte. This gift apparently comes from Heaven since Jinny has been our own personal angel since her death last August. First she left us a share of her charitable trust amounting to over $100,000 which the Board has reserved to fund nature education in the Tristate area in honor of Jinny and her first husband, Art Wiseman. Recently, Jinny's estate was divided and Oxbow, Inc. received an endowment package worth over $1,500,000.

 

Jinny set up the endowment package so that it was to remain under the control of investment bankers for 10 years following her death. Among the restrictions are that Oxbow, Inc. will receive the interest and dividends generated by the fund on a quarterly basis during the year. In addition, Oxbow, Inc. may annually withdraw 5% of the value of the fund if we desire. At the end of the 10 years the entire fund is controlled by Oxbow, Inc.

 

This gift has come to us with some very wise rules of use and gives us 10 years to learn how to be wise stewards of an invested endowment. Since we have never before managed funds other than through a money market account we may need all of those 10 years that Jinny has provided to learn.

 

An endowment of this size goes a long way to assuring the perpetuity of the Organization. One of the greatest threats to organizations such as Oxbow, Inc. is loss of mission, loss of member support, and finally loss of sufficient funding to remain alive. Properly managed, the income from this fund could go a long way toward assuring permanent stability for the organization long into the future.

Our mission remains unchanged and clear – protect and improve the floodplain at the confluence of the Great Miami and the Ohio Rivers. We have been extraordinarily successful but there are still hundreds of acres of the floodplain needing protection. Our member support is strong but needs to grow. Many of our members joined in the first years of the organiza­tion and many have moved aw

ay or have passed away like Jinny and Art. We have had many new members in the last few years but they have just kept the numbers even with only slight gains versus a few years ago when we were at our member­ship low. Our funding is in excellent shape but our financial position prior to Jinny's endowment was not sufficient to pur­chase the remaining land and still have sufficient funds left over to maintain and improve the property. Now the funds de­rived from our farming operations along with the funds from the endowment should be sufficient to assure operating capital and allow us to focus on accumulating funding to complete the purchase of the remaining acres of the floodplain.

 

All in all, not a bad present, better than Pennies from Heaven. Of course we had an angel in our corner. Thanks Jinny, and don't forget to thank Art for us too.


Oxbow Acquires a Home

(from Wetland Matters, 2008)

 

With the aid of a grant from the Earl and Florence Simmonds Foundation, Oxbow, Inc. has rented its first ever home. The store front is located at 301 Walnut St. in downtown Lawrenceburg, IN. (See photo page 6) Oxbow is renting the store front from the Knights of Co­lumbus (K of C), another charitable organization. The K of C use the rent to maintain the building which also con­tains their offices and their meeting room.

 

A grant from Mainstreet Lawrenceburg allowed the K of C to remodel the storefront with new carpet and to repaint the interior. They also constructed a new wall at our request that separates the front half of the store from the back half. We will use the back half of the store front as the office for Oxbow, Inc. while the front will be used for meetings and for public education.

 

Already we are collecting the various materials stored in the closets and basements of Oxbow members. We are soliciting donations of office furniture and mate­rials (see list below if you have material to donate). Some donations have been offered and we will be busy over the next few months putting this all together. Cur­rently we hope to have a grand opening sometime in Sep­tember 2008 and be able to begin educational activities using the office as the base.


Gift from the Estate of Jinny (Wiseman) Witte Goes to Support Nature Education

 

The Board of Directors of Oxbow, Inc. was excited to receive a grant of $116,563 from the estate of the late Jinny (Wiseman) Witte. Before marrying Russ Witte later in her life, Jinny was married to Art Wiseman. Art and Jinny Wiseman were among the founders of Oxbow, Inc. and our first meetings were held in the basement of the Wiseman’s Pharmacy. The Wiseman’s lived above the Pharmacy and both Art and Jinny were pharmacists. It was home, business and nature academy rolled into one small neighborhood store. Many of the current champions of nature in the Cincinnati area were schooled in the Wiseman’s homestyle academy. Many were infected by the enthusiasm and attention to detail, and delight in even the seemingly mundane areas of nature study.

 

In accepting this legacy from Jinny’s estate the Board of Directors of Oxbow, Inc. felt that the memory of Art and Jinney Wiseman would best be served by focusing the gift on nature education. The Board voted to establish the Art and Jinny (Witte) Wiseman Nature Education Fund. The Fund would be established by the grant and other funds could be donated to it from other sources. 80% of the yearly proceeds of the fund would be available to fund nature education projects while 20% of the proceeds would be reinvested in the fund to insure growth of the principle.

 

The fund and its proceeds will be managed by the Board of Directors and their designees. The Board envisions using the Fund to recognize and encourage educational excellence and promote educational opportunities particularly for the preK-12 and college level students. Another function of the fund would be to encourage nature education across the tri-state in conjunction with other like minded conservation groups in the area. The establishment of this fund represents a new direction for Oxbow, Inc. and formalizes our 501(c) 3 requirement for education of the public. Added to our adult community educational lectures held in two states and to our extensive hands on guided nature walk schedule for families of all ages, we feel we have a strong framework for educating the public in appreciation of nature and helping ensure that future generations continue to appreciate and actively support the work of organizations such as Oxbow, Inc.


Oxbow Area Recognized as Part of Audubon Important Bird Area

 

Audubon Ohio announced the recognition of the Lower Great Miami River as an Important Bird Area. In a ceremony held at Miami-Whitewater County Park, John Ritzenthaler, Director of Habitat Conservation, Audubon Ohio, presented plaques to Jon Seymour, President, Oxbow, Inc. and Jack Sutton, Director of the Hamilton County Park District (and Dearborn County resident). The plaques commemorate the important role that Hamilton County Parks located in the Lower Great Miami River valley and the land protected and preserved by Oxbow, Inc. played in achieving this distinct honor.

Important Bird Areas (IBA) are selected through analysis of data provided to Audubon regarding the importance of the nominated area to the welfare of birds. The Lower Great Maimi River was named an IBA based on observations of rare or unusual birds in the area such as the wintering population of Bald Eagles and Black Vultures, migrating Ospreys, unusually large summer concentrations of wading birds such as Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets, and the use of the area as a major migratory path for ducks. Many different species of birds use the area. The Oxbow area, adjacent to Lawrenceburg and Greendale, alone lists 283 species of birds using the area. This number is more than many National Wildlife Refuges.

 

Jon Seymour, President of Oxbow, Inc. (left), Jack Sutton, Director Hamilton County Park District, (center) accept memorial plaques representing the Lower Great Miami River being named by the Audubon Society an Important Bird Area from John Ritzenthaler, Audubon Ohio (right).

“The Lower Great Miami River is a perfect example of the important role Ohio’s landscape plays in survival of birds,” said John Ritzenthaler. “Located near major migration routes, birds pass through as they travel to their winter and summer destinations. They rely on our land to survive their journeys. Through the Audubon’s Important Bird Areas program, we are working to ensure places such as this rich corridor continue to be managed for the benefit of these birds, as well as the enjoyment of local communities.”

 

Board members Dave Styer and Jay Stenger were instrumental in obtaining and submitting the data on bird observation in the Lower Miami Valley and the Oxbow area imparticular that led to the selection of the Lower Great Miami Valley as an IBA.

 

“We are honored to be a key part of this Important Bird Area,” said Jon Seymour. “Oxbow, Inc. is dedicated to the preservation and improvement of the floodplain that supports the diverse bird population that brought the area this honor.”


It Was a Long Hot Summer

by Jon Seymour

 

I had more than one call this summer. They all started about the same way. “Have you seen the level of the lake and all the dead fish?” The answer, of course, was yes. Then I would try to explain why these things are normal and not to worry about the Oxbow.

 

We need to go back a few years to 1847 when Oxbow Lake was the river bed of the Great Miami River . A bustling little town of Hardinsburg nestled on a high bluff at the edge of the river. City fathers had high hopes of the town becoming a more important city than Lawrenceburg which was down stream from Hardinsburg and more susceptible to flooding. Dreams of becoming an important river port were dashed in 1847 when a raging flood on the Great Miami River changed the course of the river to its present river bed 1 and ½ miles away in a different state. Hardinsburg was high and dry. The town gradually disappeared and became the combination of cement operations, trailer park, and auto salvage yard that constitute the current north entrance to the Oxbow area.

 

The long curving lake formed when a river cuts a new channel is called an oxbow from the similarity in shape between the lake and the harness placed on an ox. Over the years multiple floods gradually silted in the old river bed and probably each year the lake would form in the winter and spring and dry up during the dry summer. Why would the lake dry each year? The water table under the flood plain is connected to the Ohio River by an underground layer of gravel. As the water level drops in the Ohio the level of Oxbow Lake also drops. Prior to 1938 the Ohio River would drop to a pool level of 12-14 feet Cincinnati in the summer and in some very dry years would nearly dry up too. This was unacceptable to barge traffic and was also a function of poor dam structure that could not control large floods in the Ohio Valley . Arial photos from 1937 show the entire Oxbow Lake as a corn field except for the southwest edge (the high bank) which contained a narrow strip of trees.

To control floods and assure year round barge traffic a series of dams was built along the Ohio River . These dams raised the pool level of the Ohio to 26 feet at Cincinnati . With the construction of I-275 the natural outlet of Oxbow Lake was “adjusted” to flow under the new Highway. Oxbow Lake surface is probably about 30 feet Cincinnati and in normal summers the amount of rain in the floodplain just about balances the flow of water out the bottom of the lake through the gravel beds. This year there was no where near enough rain and the water table kept dropping toward the 26 feet of the Ohio River .

 

Morris Mercer always told me that the Oxbow began to flood at 30 feet Cincinnati . I know he was right. The fact that the lake can dry up was known. I had many folks tell me that this same thing happened about 20 years ago. The lake will recover. The first flood will recharge the water levels and bring in new fish to populate the lake. Given the number of dead carp that may not be such a bad thing! Juno Pond will connect again with Oxbow Lake and all the fish waiting in Juno Pond will be free to roam. For that matter Mercer Pond connects to cement plant pond which will connect to Juno Pond as the water rises. The heron, egrets, and even a stray pelican have benefited as the low levels concentrating the fish in Oxbow Lake and making for easy feeding. The Vultures were ecstatic. Part of the beauty of the Oxbow is the variety of habitats available. Cormorants and herons moved over to Osprey Lake and Mercer Pond. Egrets congregated in the ponds of the Conservancy District. If one place was not to their liking they just looked around and found another. In all cases the Great Miami River and the Ohio River were only short flights from the oxbow. The beauty of nature is that it is a powerful force that can take care of itself if we human beings do not get in the way.


Morris Mercer Receives Environmental Educator Award

at

Earth Day Celebrations at Sawyer Point

April 17, 2004

 

This award was presented by the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition in the category of Community Leader. It is presented to individuals who have demonstrated an outstanding dedication to environmental stewardship. The application submitted on Morris's behalf is as follows:

 

Describe what measures have been taken to protect the environment by the nominee.

 

In 1985 Morris Mercer and two other individuals became aware of a threat to turn the floodplain at the mouth of the Great Miami River into a barge port. This historic flood plain was a major stop for thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl and the summer home to the Cincinnati area’s largest concentration of wading birds. They called a meeting of several of the prominent conservationists in the Cincinnati area that resulted in the formation of Oxbow, Inc. Over the next 19 years Oxbow, Inc. was able to stop the development of the area for a barge port and set about the business of purchasing land and conservation easements. Morris assumed the role of inspirational leadership for the organization serving in many offices during the last 19 years. Perhaps the most important role Morris filled was that of speaker. Morris became a combination ambassador, educator, crusader and sage for Oxbow, Inc. Over the years he has been an invited speaker for hundreds of organizations, led dozens of outdoor nature hikes for K-12 school groups, and has lectured graduate level classes on the importance of community efforts for habitat preservation. His bimonthly column "Field Notes" in the newsletter of Oxbow, Inc. reaches 900 subscribers including many elected officials and officials of government agencies in both Indiana and Ohio. "Field Notes", a compilation of current observation, memories of past years, and lessons to be learned, is year after year the most praised feature in the newsletter.

 

What environmental problem has been addressed?

 

Education of the young to protect their natural heritage and to pass that heritage on to their children and others they meet along the course of their life is the greatest challenge of environmental protection. If the young do not learn to embrace the challenge of stewardship for the environment all other actions we take are useless. How we teach others to value nature and how they pass that on is the most vital activity we can undertake. Those that are talented at it, like Morris, generate a sense of awe, wonder, curiosity, inquisitiveness, and pride in preserving nature. What seems strange becomes familiar, what seems alien becomes comfortable, what seems worthless becomes treasured, and what was invisible becomes an open book to read and explore.

Describe what measurable results have been derived from the nominee's activities.

 

The organization that Morris helped form started as about 20 individual in a room passing a hat to attain enough money to incorporate as a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Through his efforts and those of many others he brought to the organization, Oxbow, Inc. has been able to purchase over 700 acres of the Great Miami/Ohio River floodplain and acquire an additional 260 acres of conservation easements. The organization grew to currently having 900 members who are the owners of this remarkable private nature conservancy. Protection of over 1000 acres on the Ohio side of the floodplain has been achieved through partnership with the Hamilton County Parks System. While over a thousand acres still remains to be acquired, amazingly the protected acreage is the majority of the floodplain. Morris’s talents as a speaker and educator are largely responsible for the large membership and public support. Former President of Oxbow, Inc., Norma Flannery said, "When Morris would go out and speak the memberships would just flow in." Morris was recently honored by the Oxbow, Inc. Board of Directors. Fittingly the honor named Morris – Mr. Oxbow, the Soul of the Oxbow.


Audubon as in John James At the Oxbow

by Mike Busam

 

Cincinnati can be proud that it helped John James Audubon begin his quest to create life-sized paintings of all of North America's birds. If he hadn't been so miserable in Cincinnati, if his job at the Western Museum (now the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History) hadn't turned out to be a dud, if his wife hadn't found their living conditions in the city deplorable, if the family Audubon felt hadn't reached the end of their collective rope, which was made worse by the loss of two young daughters within two years of each other, Audubon might never have been driven to take the desperate measure of leaving his family for a lengthy and risky journey of discovery to New Orleans, and we might not have Audubon's masterpiece, The Birds of America.

 

To be fair, Audubon also received some of his first public acclaim for an exhibit of his bird drawings in Cincinnati, and this must have given him encouragement to begin the work necessary for his ambitious project. With nothing to lose and a string of personal and financial failures behind him, including a stint in debtor's prison, Audubon left Cincinnati for New Orleans via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers with his teenage assistant Joseph Mason on October 12, 1820. In Audubon's Mississippi River Journal, which covers Audubon's experiences from October 1820 through December 1821, Audubon spends a considerable amount of time recording the birdlife he saw and studied -- as well as shot and often ate--during his journey to New Orleans and the time he spent in Louisiana, where he tried to make a living as a teacher.

 

On October 14, 1820, on the third day of his journey, Audubon records a visit he made to an area near and dear to Oxbow members and supporters:

 

"After an early Breakfast We took to the Woods I say We because Joseph Mason, Capt Cummings & Myself I believe Are always together.

 

"I Shot a Fish Hawk Falco Alitus [osprey] at the Mouth of the Big Miami River a handsome Male in good Plumage. he was wingd only and in attempting to Seize Joseph's hand, he ran One of his Claws through the Lower Mandible of his Bill and exhibited a very Ludicrous object-these Birds Walk with great dificulty and Like all of The Falco and Strix Genus throw themselves on their backs to defend themselves.

 

"We returnd to our Boat with a Wild Turkey 7 Partriges [northern bobwhite quail] a Tall Tale Godwit [greater yellowlegs] and a Hermit Thrush which was too much torn to make a drawing of it this Was the first time I had Met with the Bird and felt particularly Mortified at its Situation.

 

"We passd the Small Town of Laurenceburgh in Indiana, Petersburgh in K.y, We Walked in the afternoon to Bellevue. . . . We killed 4 Small Grebes [horned grebes] at one Shot from a Flock of about 30. We approached them with ease to within about 40 Yards, they were chassing each other and quite Mery.

 

"When the Destructive fire through the whole in consternation, the Many Wounded escaped by Diving, the rest flew off-this is the second time I have seen this kind, and they must be extremely rare, in this part of America-. . . We walked this day about 40 Miles saw one Deer Crossing the River".

 

This might be the first record of what we would call a field trip to the Oxbow area. And it's interesting to read that Audubon collected an osprey, as well as a life bird, a hermit thrush, on his visit to the Oxbow area. A few days later and further down the river, he managed to collect a hermit thrush that was in good enough shape to use as a drawing model.

 

The quotations from Audubon's Mississippi River Journal are taken from John James Audubon: Writings & Drawings, published by The Library of America in 1999. The composition, capitalization, spellings and punctuation are as they are in Audubon's journal and the bracketed contemporary names of the birds Audubon mentions in his journal are as listed in the notes by Christoph Irmscher, Editor of the Library of America Audubon Collection. (2/21/04)


Purchase of CSX Property

by Jon Seymour

 

On Friday, November 14, 2003, Mark Westrich, Tim Mara, and I met in Bill Ewan’s office in Lawrenceburg to finalize the purchase of property north and south of the CSX railroad trestle crossing the Great Miami River. This was an exciting moment for me since this is the first purchase I have presided over since becoming President of this organization. The purchase amounted to 56.2 acres for a cost of $86,620. The property consists of about 26 acres south of the CSX railroad trestle and about 32 acres north of the trestle. CSX insisted on maintaining ownership of a very wide right of way of 200 feet on either side of the center of the trestle. Normally this would be a 60 foot right of way but the complexities of constructing another trestle when the current one needs to be replaced dictate a need for lots of room. This purchase is significant in several ways. It nearly doubles the acreage east of I-275 that will be available for next years hunting season. This will continue our concept of allowing hunting along the edge of the preserve while maintaining a large center core safe area, free from hunting. This model is successful with many of the National Wildlife Refuges in the United States and is consistent with our policy of recognizing the hunter’s role in conservation. The purchase also gives Oxbow, Inc. its first land on the east bank of the Great Miami River. This came as a surprise to us and is the result of the constantly shifting flow of the Great Miami. We can say for the first time that the Great Miami runs through Oxbow, Inc. property. This purchase also completes our ownership of the island at the mouth of the Great Miami River. (10/03)


Purchase of Whitacre Property Adds 40 Acres to the Oxbow

by Jon Seymour

 

We are thrilled to announce the purchase of 40 acres of Oxbow bottom land on October 12, 2004 from Debbie and Robert Whitacre. Oxbow purchased the land for $143,000 and an allowance of a 15 year limited use plan for the Whitacres. The plan allows the Whitacres an additional 15 years of limited use of the property from the date of purchase while placing restrictions on any further development of the property. Oxbow also obtained the rights to the farm income from the property beginning in 2005. This also means that there will be no public access to the land for the 15 years of the contract.

 

This important purchase gives Oxbow control of most of the Ohio River shore line between the Argosy Casino and the mouth of the Great Miami River. Now there are only two land owners left in the immediate vicinity of the purchase and we have open offers to each of them to negotiate for the purchase of their properties.

 

The Whitacre purchase is located east of the Lawrenceburg Conservancy District, south of the CSX railroad tracks, north of the Ohio River , and is bounded on the east by private property. Oxbow will be conducting a survey of the plant life on the property in 2005 and will occasionally monitor the property to be assured that the terms of the contract are complied with.


A Tree for You, A Mudflat for Me

by Jon Seymour

 

Our mudflat restoration project is proceeding slowly - thank goodness! It is the only project at the Oxbow that I am happy about going slowly. The reason being, the happy coincidence, that our restoration of mudflats coincides with a tremendous need for water adapted native trees to help prevent stream bank erosion in several stream restoration projects in the tri-state area. Three different expeditions in 2004 led to the removal of an estimated 700 saplings (all silver maple) for use in several stream bank restoration projects in Butler and Hamilton Counties, Ohio. Bruce Koehler of OKI is the coordinator of this project and has marshaled volunteers from several area conservation groups to help remove the trees from the Oxbow Lake mudflat restoration area, and transplant them along streams sorely in need of tree roots to hold and maintain the soil of the stream bank. Transplantation success has been very high making these saplings even more valuable. Other benefits of the program have been that these conservation groups no longer have to purchase these trees and scarce funds can be used for other important priorities. In one instance this year the value of the trees was computed as part of the organization's contribution to a project and put them over the top for obtaining matching grant funds that allowed major expansion of the restoration project. Oxbow Inc. is very proud of its role in supporting other conservation organizations and fostering cooperation that is essential if we are going to have a natural legacy to pass on to our grandchildren.

Volunteers from a variety of local conservation organizations remove saplings from the Oxbow Lake mudflat restoration area.
Bruce Koehler’s “tree mobile” is loaded with saplings destined for area stream bank restoration projects.

The Birthday Party was a Picnic (August 2005)

by Jon Seymour

 

Our first ever members picnic, and not coincidentally our 20th Birthday Party, was a great success. About 90 members attended the festivities held in Agner Hall at the Lawrenceburg Fairgrounds. Jack’s Catering prepared a sumptuous spread and the Lawrenceburg Kroger donated the soda pop and water. The “Indoor Picnic” concept worked very well, as the outside temperatures of near 90 degrees meant that we all ate comfortably in the air conditioning of Agner Hall. Jim Williams portrayed one of his ancestors, an early settler of the Ohio Valley, and gave a great program on the history of the American settlement of this area. John Cimarosti lectured and discussed his participation in the Lewis and Clark reenactment as it proceeds to the Pacific Coast. John portrays John Colter, the first American to see the park we currently call Yellowstone National Park. Both gentlemen were well received by an appreciative audience.

 

In addition to the stimulating conversation with other members over brats and burgers, including founding members George Laycock and Karl Maslowski, everyone had a chance to examine documents and photos demonstrating current projects that Oxbow is involved in. Plans for the proposed 2006 mitigation of the southwest border of Oxbow Lake, the CSX railroad changes, the new Argosy Casino, and the electrical substation inside the current levee were on display. Also on view was our current design for a trail sign on the levee explaining the history, purpose and unique quality of the Oxbow area to users of the levee walk way. Several members sat and viewed our 4-8th grade school presentation on the relation of animals to their habitats, using the Oxbow as the teaching tool. If that was not enough entertainment, about half of the attendees took advantage of the two tours of the Oxbow we offered. These tours were led by Rick Pope and Denis Conover. I have heard nothing but great comments about the celebration. It was our first attempt to bring the membership together and enjoy our success to date. Hopefully we will be able to do it again in the near future.

Founding members Karl Maslowski and George Laycock discuss old times and old friends at the Oxbow Birthday Picnic.

Attendees at the Oxbow Birthday Picnic sit in air conditioned Agner Hall to chow down on great picnic fare. By picnic’s end 88 members came to eat and even more came for just the tours and displays.