The Louis J. Sima Great Lakes Marsh
In 2002, the Sima Family of New Buffalo donated 156 acres to create the Louis J. Sima Great Lakes Marsh, located on the Galien River in New Buffalo. The land is environmentally significant as one of the few Great Lakes marshes remaining in southwest Michigan. Its area is vast, including river channels and narrow shrub borders. In addition, it is adjacent to the Galien River County Park Preserve, which contains upland as well as marshland. In total, the marsh and the park preserve a total of 250 acres for future generations.
The Sima Marsh is a non-forested wetland directly influenced by and connected to Lake Michigan. It provides important habitat for migrating and breeding waterfowl shorebirds, including osprey, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Caspian Tern, Forester’s Tern, and the Black Tern, all of which are threatened or special concern species. It is also habitat to spawning fish and medium sized mammals (muskrat, fox, etc.) and a variety of reptiles and amphibious creatures including the threatened Blanding’s Turtle, Blanchard’s Cricket Frog, and the Massasauga Rattlesnake.
Although threatened, the Great Lakes marsh is considered one of the richest habitats on earth and continues to support high plant diversity, including substantial populations of the state-threatened Cup Plant and the state special concern Swamp Rose-Mallow. (Download a detailed PDF describing the Great Lakes Marshes, written by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, here.)
One of the best ways to access the marsh is in a canoe or a kayak. Winding through the mysterious channels in a boat is a great way to spend an afternoon. Thanks to a grant from the AEP Foundation, the water trail has been documented to enhance understanding of the marsh and its implications for the area. This water trail guide makes the marsh even more accessible to the public. Our partners for this project include the surrounding communities of The Preserve Association and The Riviera Homeowners Association. Currently, access docks are in New Buffalo across from the public beach and on Red Arrow Highway outside of town. Download a copy of the Marsh Water Trail Guide before your next visit! (5MB PDF)
The boundaries and area surrounding the Louis J. Sima Great Lakes Marsh.
Marsh Restoration Program
The marsh is considered a high quality Great Lakes marsh. But its diversity and ecological value are being threatened by the invasion of exotic species as well as habitat loss from development and water quality issues.
COL received a grant from the Pokagon Fund to restore the marsh to its original glory and hired JFNew, a reputable ecological consulting service, to help create an invasive species management plan on the Sima Marsh. Together, we have developed a program of invasive species control and a reseeding plan. Goals of the restoration project are to increase biodiversity and populations of native species; reduce invasive species; improve habitat for four threatened or endangered species; educate the community about invasive and native plants; and enhance the ecological function of the marsh in order to improve water quality.
You can download and read a pdf file containing the full Louis J. Sima Great Lakes Marsh Management Plan here.
The main focus of the restoration has been removing the invasive species from the marsh, which include purple loosestrife, common reed or reed canary grass and phragmites. Because the treatments of these species went so well, we decided to treat cattails along with finishing up the phragmites and the reed canary grass. Currently there are three types of cattails, a native, an invasive and a hybrid between the two. Most cattails in the south part of the state are either the invasive or the hybrid so we treated them all in certain areas to allow the swamp rose mallow and other native species to have less competition. This effort also proved to be successful as JFNew showed an increase in the number of these species and other sensitive but good native species to the marsh.
Our next major project on the marsh will be a mow. This will be a substitute disturbance for the burning of the marsh. We were hoping the marsh would freeze in 2012 so JFNew could mow the marsh down, particularly the cattails, with hopes that the native species will flourish from the disturbance and more abundant access to sunlight. Because the Marsh will probably not freeze for the second winter in a row, Cardno JFNew is renting special mowing equiptment that does not require frozen ground.