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Hundreds enjoy Earth Day Fort Wayne celebration

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Monday, April 22, 2013 - 7:36 am

Hundreds gathered at Eagle Marsh Wetlands on Sunday to enjoy the Earth Day Fort Wayne celebration.

Betsy Yankowiak, director of Preserves and Programs Little River Wetlands Project, said last year they had 500 people at the event. This year with the pleasant weather conditions she was expecting more. They had five major sponsors this year, including Aqua Indiana, GM, NIPSCO, Indiana Michigan Power and OMNI Source.

There were many activities including learning stations for the kids, an area to plant prairie plants, an eagle observant station, a farmers market with organic goodies and a tent filled with booths of for other organizations concerned with the environment, and a five K walk around the preserve.

Ann Zepke, a volunteer for Soaring Hawk Raptor Rehab, had an American kestrel perched on her hand as she explained to visitors a little bit about their organization. The raptor, recovering from an injured wing seemed to take the experience in stride, barely moving as camera flashes went off near it.

This year the event was set up like a block party Yankowiak said. Engle Road was shut down so that participants could set up tents, and the farmers market right on the roadway. It also provided space for people to park.

Closer to the marsh, on their gravel road, education stations were set up for the kids. At one such station Jaimie Vachon, volunteer, cradled a Western Hog Nose snake. The snake was actually not indigenous to the area, but it has a relative, the Eastern Hog Nose that can be found around here. The snake Vachon said is venomous, but they rarely bite. Ryan Hunt, another volunteer and the snake's owner said they prey on toads, which can be found about anywhere.

One table down from the snake kids examined water samples they had drawn from the Marsh. At yet another station kids were creating there own "Scat", or animal poop. A volunteer was explaining biologist learn a lot about what an animal eats by examining the "end product."

Yankowiak said the recent flooding was something she had anticipated, their barn was actually thigh high in water, with the extra space on Engle Road this year it really was not a problem.

According to the organizations website the mission of the Little River Wetlands Project is “to restore and protect wetlands in the watershed of the Little River, a major tributary of the Wabash River, and to provide educational opportunities that encourage good stewardship of wetlands and other natural ecosystems.”