FAIRFIELD – A tract of land on the north side of Fairfield has been converted into prairie and will open to the public next spring with walking trails and educational signs.
The 40-acre property is west of Pleasant Lake just off the Fairfield Loop Trail and North B Street. It is known as the Nady property, after its former owner Bob Nady, who gave the land to the city of Fairfield in 2011 with the intention that it never be developed. The value of that donation was appraised at more than $1 million.
Three years later, the Nady Committee was formed to administer the land and decided the best use for it was restored prairie with walking trails. The land is in the conservation reserve program (CRP) and receives money from the government, which the committee will put toward educational signs.
Committee chair Ron Blair updated the Fairfield City Council Monday on the progress of prairie restoration. He mentioned that the land has been seeded three times, the first of which partially failed due to insufficient rainfall.
The second seeding, in 2017, yielded better results.
The committee turned to Fairfield resident Mark Smith, a bonded burn specialist, to conduct a controlled burn on the land in 2018 to rid it of dead vegetation and allow for better seed germination. Blair credits Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Kevin Anderson with helping the committee figure out the best way to burn the ground and how to allow the fresh seeds to grow among the old vegetation.
A grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources allowed the committee to purchase more prairie seeds, which were planted last winter to fill in barren areas. Blair said a tour of the land this past spring revealed the prairie grasses and flowers were well established and that the land could be opened to the public in spring 2021.
A small portion of invasive shrubs and trees were removed from the adjoining woodlands around Pleasant Lake and converted into a short grass prairie mix, which will allow walkers to better enjoy the woodland trails.
The committee planted a “Leopold seed mix” of 100 prairie grasses and flowers. Blair said its hope is that, with such a wide variety of vegetation, some plant or another will be blooming from April to October.
“It will be a constant array of new blossoms,” Blair said.
The trails within the Nady land will be grass, 12-feet wide, similar to the grass trail around Bonnifield Lake. They will connect to the Fairfield Loop Trail. Blair said there will be two places to enter the Nady land from the loop trail. The land will not be accessible from the north.
Blair advises those who use the land this coming spring to stay on the walking trail and not venture into the prairie because it is home to myriad wildlife such as deer, pheasants and other birds. Part of the land has been set aside as a food plot for animals to eat over the winter.
Blair said that, in his 25 years of public service, he has never been on a committee with the depth of talent of the Nady Committee, with three experienced prairie specialists, two educators and one burn specialist. The committee would like to use its CRP funds to improve other city-owned land, such as the Eastman Wetlands and Community Orchard east of Chautauqua Park.
“There isn’t enough time and manpower for Parks and Recreation and the conservation board to put personnel and resources toward these attractive and important sites,” said Blair, who added that the committee wants to create a five-year plan to reinvigorate these areas.