Gateway to Kamama Prairie

      Land Acquisition & Kamama Stewardship Fund

Acres: 6.027     Project Total: $253.858 

Project Balance as of 11/30/2021: $137,201

Kamama Prairie has been landlocked for 17 years!

That’s about to change!

 

For as long as the Arc of Appalachia has owned Kamama Prairie public access has been a dream with an unknown timeline. When the gateway property became available that dream became a possibility, and soon, a reality. In the coming years we will be developing a parking lot, kiosk, and upgraded trail system to give you, and all our visitors, access to this treasured, state-significant natural area.

 

Finally, A Public Entrance for Kamama Prairie! Ever since we acquired our first Kamama Prairie parcel in 2004, Kamama Prairie has been land-locked and without legal access. We have long had our eyes on one particular property – a narrow and long six-acre tract that runs along the entire western boundary of Kamama Prairie. The land had already been developed with a manufactured home and outbuildings, so we knew it would not be inexpensive to buy, but it was otherwise perfect. This tract was our best remedy for access, and the closest parcel separating Kamama from a long frontage on Steam Furnace Road. The map to the right shows how perfectly the acquisition of this tract would provide the preserve with both legal access and just as significantly, public access. The road running along the west side of the green parcel is Steam Furnace Road.

Patience Was Awarded. And so, when the  “For Sale” sign went up on this very property a few months ago, to say we were elated was an understatement. Rather than chance the tract selling to another party (there were six showings the first weekend!), a sympathetic sister nonprofit known as Wilderness East hurried in and purchased the property with the plan of holding it until we had the funds to purchase it from them. Wilderness East has generously agreed to sell the property to the Arc at cost when that time comes.

An important Buffer for Kamama Prairie Preserve. Kamama Prairie, based on the 2021 ODNR report, has 27 rare and endangered plant species. That mean nearly one out of very three state listed species in the entire 7000-acre Arc Preserve System lies in this one relatively small preserve. Kamama also boasts an extraordinary 51 plant species that were previously state-listed. The intricate and rich ecosystem in this preserve, with its tens of thousands of native plant and animal species does not sustain itself solely on Kamama Prairie’s 186 acres. Insects, birds, mammals and reptiles have loose boundaries; to meet their neeeds they make good use of the ecosystems of the surrounding private lands of meadows and woodlands. Adding more land to Kamama’s preserve holdings is the single best conservation strategy for the perpetuation of biodiversity that we can perform.

Protecting one of the rarest ecosystems in the nation. Kamama Prairie – and the new Gateway property too – both shelter a very rare plant community known as an Alkaline Shortgrass Prairie. This is one of America’s rarest ecosystems. Here in Ohio, it is restricted to Adams County and, to a lesser extent, Belmont County. Alkaline Short-grass Prairies are populated with plants that are genetically distinct from both the short-grass prairie species of the far western Great Plains and those of the tall-grass prairies of the Midwest. Their distinct assemblages of plants are specially adapted to shallow soils derived from underlying limestone, dolomite, and calcareous shale bedrocks. (See distribution map below). 

Diminishing Cedar Glades. Like all other prairie types in the United States, Alkaline Shortgrass Prairies, sometimes known as Cedar Glades, have lost ground. In nearly every case, land that once supported Cedar Glades prior to European immigration have since been replaced by non-native cool-season grasses used for haymaking and pasturing. According to a news release from Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, of Kentucky’s primeval three million acres of Cedar Glades, less than 1% remain –  often only the ones with soil so thin, steep and rocky that the barrens aren’t worth trying to harness for agricultural production.

The Kamama Prairie Trailhead Tract is Botanically Worthy in its own Right. John Howard, an Adams County resident, botanist, naturalist, and field researcher, performed a preliminary botanical investigation of the 6-acre tract. Even for the tract’s small size, John discovered 3 state-listed plant species (Tall Larkspur, Crested Coralroot, and Wild Kidney Bean), 21 plant species that were previously state-listed, and 5 state-listed fauna (Blanchard’s Cricket Frog, Woodland Box Turtle, Eastern Black Kingsnake, Chuck Will’s Widow, and a first-year Eastern Hognose Snake.) See photo right. Remarkably, he also recorded 28 plants that were all signature species of the Alkaline Shortgrass Prairie. Also of note was the recording of a very rare Ohio butterfly known as the Northern Metalmark (also photo right). According to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Bug Lady,  Northern Metalmarks prefer “open/dappled stream edges and meadows near woodlands, and with shale, limestone or serpentine rock barrens or outcroppings close by.” This perfectly describes the conditions at Kamama Prairie Trailhead!

Not only is this tract an important buffer for Kamama Prairie, it is also a botanical hotspot in its own right –  very worthy of preservation. 

Kamama’s Doors Will Open to the Public!!! Once this property is acquired, the Arc of Appalachia, will finally be able to open Kamama Prairie to the general public, providing access to one of the state’s most renowned botanical and zoological paradises. Planned developments include the removal of the older double-wide house (in poor condition) and the outbuildings from the tract, and the installation of a parking lot to serve as the preserve’s public trailhead. An awarded Clean Ohio grant is supporting 70% of the site’s acquisition and trailhead development. Donations provide the required match as well a providing stewardship funds for what will be a new and major public preserve.

Campaign Includes Phase I Stewardship Funds. The Arc of Appalachia is committed to caring for its preserves into perpetuity. Without any tax dollars supporting the Arc, all of the annual attention required from our staff to maintain trails, offer educational opportunities, cultivate volunteers, and steward native ecosystems requires yearly expenditures of a minimum of $30,000 – $50,000 each year for each preserve that is open to the public. For the first time in the Arc’s history, we are committed to building up a Stewardship Fund for Kamama Prairie to help ensure that the Arc’s shiniest JEWEL of biodiversity is given the attention it deserves, not just today and not just next year, but forever. If we reach our campaign goal, we will have completed the first phase out of six, bringing us one sixth of the way closer to full sustainability. This is our way of responsibly planning for the future. There are many treasures in the Arc, and buying them is only the beginning of the preservation journey.

Cedar Glades Distribution Map - excerpted from Xeric Limestone Prairies of Eastern United States Article. Fig. 2. County/physiographic province (sensu Fenneman, 1938, [1946] 1949) distribution map of xeric limestone prairies in eastern United States.

Cedar Glades Distribution Map – excerpted from Xeric Limestone Prairies of Eastern United States Article. 

Cedar Barrens at Kamama Prairie Trailhead. Photo by John Howard.

This neonate Eastern Hognose Snake was photographed at Kamama Prairie Trailhead by Samuel James. These snakes are a state-listed Species of Concern.

This photo of a rare Northern Metalmark Butterfly was taken on-site by John Howard. These butterflies have very particular habitat needs, which makes them increasingly uncommon. 

A 15-20 foot dolomite cliff looms over the trailhead’s limestone-bedded stream. This rock feature supports a botanical garden of wildflowers, ferns, and lichens as shown above, including populations of the previously state-listed plants: Sullivantia sullivantii and Purple Cliff Brake Fern.

Kamama will soon be offering outstanding hiking opportunities.

Giant Swallowtail at Kamama by Jeff White.

Kamama is Cherokee for “Butterfly.” Shown is a Giant Swallowtail at Kamama photographed by Jeff White.