Madrid’s Prairie Restoration

Prairie Maintenance at the Johnson Family Trailhead/Dalander Park

A controlled burn was done at the Johnson Family Trailhead/Dalander Park Prairie last Wednesday, December 13th and finished on Friday, December 15th.  The Prairie was installed in the fall of 2009, and the burn is part of regular management practices to ensure establishment and maintenance of a diverse habitat.

“Madrid’s unique location along the Des Moines River Valley offers our community a diverse and spectacular array of natural beauty and wildlife,” said Mayor Dirk Ringgenberg.

The prairie is located on eleven acres of land owned by the City of Madrid. The prairie and the trailhead were acquired with the assistance of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF). Currently, the prairie habitat supports a variety of wildlife, from pollinating insects, like bees and butterflies, to many species of birds.

“Our Prairie restoration at Dalander Park and Prairie Creek is the cornerstone to the efforts we as a community are undertaking to preserve this wonderful addition to our lives. Our recreational attractions are enhanced by our conservation, which our citizens can be very proud of. I am honored to assist in any way our vision for a community infused with rich Iowan nature at its finest,” Ringgenberg said.

Burn of Dalander Prairie. Photo by Luke Gran with Prudenterra.

“The Dalander Prairie is a quiet nook to investigate birds, butterflies, plants, and openness,” said Penny Perkins from FTF Restorations, who is in charge of managing the prairie.

“The Park will transform over the next several years as more woody and invasive species are removed and replaced with appropriate species,” said Perkins.  “The replacement species will capture and filter water, provide a diversity of wildlife with habitat and food, and appeal to user groups hopping off their bikes for something a little different.”

The burn last week is part of the plan to reduce woody species and control invasive species and was copmleted by collaborating company Prudenterra.

“Progress will continue as funds allow,” Perkins said. Partnerships and opportunities are also being explored. The prairie was planted with seed provided through the INHF and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA NRCS). In addition, the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge donated extra seed for interseeding where some of the invasive reed canary grass was sprayed.

In 2018, watch for a wave of blooms from spring to fall. A few species to look for include Golden Alexander in spring, and Rattlesnake Master, Blazingstar, and Asters in the fall. Milkweed was included to support monarch butterfly conservation due to recent population declines. Planting milkweed is essential since monarch females only lay eggs on milkweed, and it is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat. (Learn more at Iowamonarchs.info)

Reminder: The Dalander prairie is not open to motorized vehicle traffic. This includes 4-wheelers, ATVs, and Gators. Flowering prairie plants are vulnerable to compaction and soil disturbance.

To learn more about prairies, visit the Tallgrass Prairie Center site.

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