Powell's soon-to-open Seldom Seen Park has gained attention for its athletics fields and its playground equipment -- but behind the scenes, a team of specialists has spent hours working to ensure the park also is a shining example of wetlands preservation.
A portion of the $1.6 million park -- north of Seldom Seen Road and just west of the railroad tracks -- is situated on natural wetlands, meaning Powell is required by federal and state law to replace loss of wetland area that comes from construction or other changes.
To deal with those requirements, the city contacted Westerville-based MAD Scientist Associates, an ecological and wetlands consulting company.
"We wrote up a plan for the city saying, 'If you're going to impact this number of wetlands, here's how you can go about replacing them,' " said Jenny Adkins, a certified professional wetlands scientist with the company.
Adkins said municipalities have two options when working with wetlands: They can pay a mitigation bank -- a federally approved agency -- to maintain the land, which, Adkins said, would be "a lot of cost upfront"; or they can approach the project with a company such as MAD Scientist Associates.
City spokeswoman Megan Canavan said Powell has paid MAD Scientist Associates $102,927 since 2013 for work at the park site.
Adkins said she and her team had put together a plan that cost the city less money than a mitigation bank would have and turned the wetlands maintenance into a feature of the park by "integrating nature and recreation together."
"We thought, 'Why don't we incorporate the impact by making what's there larger and making it better and building it into the whole concept of the park?' " Adkins said.
Adkins said she "ran with" the largest portion of wetlands and "enhanced" it by removing invasive species and adding "microtopography" excavation to create pools so the area has more standing water for amphibians, ducks and other animals.
She said her team found a large population of birds, amphibians, snakes and turtles at the site, which was a surprising and welcome addition to the project.
"We had a whole bunch of wildlife that was maintained in the area, which we don't see at every site," she said. "We had amphibians reproducing in the pools before we were even done with the project."
The expanded area was integrated into the park, with a walking path winding around the perimeter of the wetlands so guests can see the work.
Adkins said the area will continue to grow and level out over the years. She said the "trickiest part" has been to perfect the water levels in the area and to clear the space of invasive species such as cattails and purple loosestrife that aren't meant for a wetlands area.
"There's a lot that went into the site, but it takes a while for them to really get their roots established and fill out," she said.
Mad Scientists will continue to work with the city to maintain the site over the next "five years or so" to "make sure those bad species don't get out of control," and it will build a network of volunteers who want to keep the site well-maintained, Adkins said.
But beyond that, she said, the site requires the same love and care as a backyard or flower bed.
"It's just like any garden or natural area," she said.
Canavan said the park still is expected to open in June, though its sports fields might need the full summer to grow in before they're usable, largely thanks to a difficult winter.
For more information on the park, go to cityofpowell.us.