Wetland Enhancements Two Years in the Making

Whether you're enjoying a picnic against the backdrop of singing birds or walking along the wetlands area, Morse Park is a serene lakeside retreat for residents and visitors.

What started in 2009 as a project to resolve storm water drainage issues in Morse Park has resulted in what is now a healthy and thriving wetland area for wildlife and visitors to enjoy.

Under the leadership of the Parks & Recreation Board, the transformation of the wetlands area is dramatic.  The wetlands not only look more beautiful, but they function as a true riverine wetland should.

The benefits from the project are already obvious. Wood ducks are spending time there where previously none were found.  Mallard ducks are also using it.  Other birds are using habitat created from brush piles and snags.  Frogs are using the pools as hatcheries for tadpoles. 

Wait a Minute, What's a Wetland?

If you're new to Lake Lure or simply haven't noticed our wetlands before, you may be asking, "what wetland project .... we have wetlands in Morse Park?"

There have always been some misconceptions about the areas that we call wetlands, as to whether they are true wetlands. According to the national standards for wetlands used by the US Army Corps of Engineers, ours do qualify and thereby are afforded protection under the Clean Water Act.  Given that fact, the Parks and Recreation Board contracted with Equinox Environmental in order to accomplish the mission of improving drainage in Morse Park, particularly in the event area near the basketball court and Visitor’s Center, and in improving the appearance of the wetland areas without creating any adverse impact.  

This project has been two years in the making and, as mentioned,  was originally conceived as a storm water management project, prompted by the Parks and Recreation Board. 

The Morse Park Wetlands prior to undertaking this project had really become rather unsightly, with a lot of overgrowth, lack of visibility, and no real evidence that they served any purpose.The wetlands, while functional, were infested with exotic invasive species and lacked the necessary management needed to maintain a certain degree of openness while still providing habitat to its inhabitants. 

The Parks and Recreation Board came to the conclusion that perhaps with a little work, these wetland areas could be improved and could actually attract more people to Morse Park.  Leading up to this project, a prescribed burn was conducted to remove unnecessary debris and to “open things up.”  The burn was extremely successful and gave the board and town staff a good idea of what the future management needs for the wetlands will be.

So, What Has been Done?

To get a greater amount of storm water to drain into the wetlands,  as opposed to draining directly into the lake, the restoration project involved some regrading in an area that is virtually flat.

It was also necessary to change the shape of the wetlands so that they could handle the amount of storm water that would potentially flow into them without affecting their natural hydrology.  This was accomplished by regrading critical areas of the wetlands and also connecting the individual wetlands to each other.

 A new “land bridge” was built to separate the existing pond from the wetlands, preventing direct discharge into the lake and increasing the size of the wetlands and the capacity for storm water discharge.  After grading was completed, areas that were no longer part of the wetlands were seeded with grass.  Graded areas inside the wetlands were seeded with wetland seed mixes which are suited for the wetter environment.  Later this year, additional wetland plants will be added while at the same time we begin the process of removing the exotic invasive species that have infested the wetlands.

 There is still work to be done, but it is a now a major enhancement to a vital area of Morse Park that has resulted in creating an educational opportunity as an outdoor classroom that focuses on wetland ecology.

And the storm water drainage goal has also been accomplished because we now have less standing water in the field and parking lot as a result of this project.  This is simply one more way that The Town of Lake Lure and its Parks & Recreation Board are dedicated to the beautification of Morse Park and the conservation of the wildlife that thrive there.