Plans To Restore Audubon Islands Call For Spring Construction Start

Over the years, the Audubon Islands have changed significantly. Once serving as cropland, the island has lost acreage from erosion and Metroparks Toledo, along with several other organizations, are planning to restore the land and maintain the natural wildlife habitat. PHOTO BY ART WEBER/METROPARKS TOLEDO

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The Audubon Islands, located in the Maumee River between Perrysburg and Maumee, will soon undergo restoration, with plans expected to be completed before the end of the year.

It’s been a several-year process, including committee meetings, studies and analysis of the best options to restore the island complex, which has lost approximately 20 acres to erosion over the past five decades.

The design-build team, made up of Verdantas and Mark Haynes Construction, has been working with Metroparks Toledo staff, various governmental agencies and area residents to outline plans to restore the space with minimal negative impact.

Construction on the island complex will begin soon and last approximately one year. A temporary causeway will be installed to the island from White Street Park, allowing crews access to the islands.

The causeway will have a curved shape to it, which should prevent drifts from bouncing off irregularly. The shape will also allow materials, such as logs traveling down the river, to be captured and possibly used in the project.

“The feedback we got from the last open house, as well as the conversations we’ve had with stakeholder groups, has resulted in a couple of adjustments to the overall design,” said Jenny Keffer, a design engineer for the project.

The feedback, gathered from the public at several open houses and individual meetings last year, allowed the staff members to create designs that will work for the island complex and restore the space for the wildlife that lives there.

“A lot of people from here are really connected to the river and the islands,” said Scott Carpenter, Metroparks Toledo director of public relations. There’s been a lot of really great two-way dialogue. I can’t think of a project that we’ve ever done more public education and had more public engagement for.”

There are two main areas that are being worked on for the project, Keffer explained.

“The first is along the perimeter shoreline of the island, and that’s putting two different kinds of features that are building off and out from the existing shoreline,” Keffer said.

A rock barrier reef, which will create protected open-water habitats, and a stone shelf, which provides another habitat, will be added to the spaces.

“After feedback from the neighbors, they preferred the reef structure, so we put those on that side and we put the stone shelf and the engineered log jam more on the interior between Hunt and Ewing Island,” Keffer said.

These features vary the types of habitats for native wildlife. The different features will also have consequences, like a natural log jam that can then create refuge areas.

Each piece being added to the space has been thought out, with input from various organizations, Keffer noted, prompting staff to think of the long-term consequences and adjust the plans accordingly.

“Around Hunt, the smaller island on the side, there was a feature that used to be on the upstream end and kind of came around the side. We changed that one because there’s good walleye spawning habitat at the upstream, so we’re leaving that as is,” Keffer added.

The second area of focus is within the cove of Ewing Island, on the downstream side of the island.

“This is a shallow mudflat, with not much variability in depth,” Keffer said.

Dredging up parts of the space and adding that material to other spots will increase the variability in depth.

This will create a transition zone for aquatic and terrestrial habitats. With the changes to the river’s depth, shallow and deeper areas will exist for wildlife.

More information about the Audubon Islands restoration is available at metroparkstoledo.com/island.

The updated conceptual plan for the island project was on display during a 2023 open house and reflected changes that have been made after feedback from residents and local organizations. PHOTO COURTESY OF VERDANTAS

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