Ritchey Woods is an important natural area in a rapidly urbanizing setting within Hamilton County. The Center for Earth and Environmental Science, with support from J.F. New and Associates, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, has been conducting ecosystem restoration within Ritchey Woods by converting 130 acres of former agricultural land to prairie and wetland ecological communities as well as protecting and improving the existing flatwoods community.
Wetland restoration projects began in 1997 and have included restoring the naturalistic hydrology to the depressional wetlands by removing or plugging drainage tile networks to create a wetland / wet prairie / sedge meadow mosaic (see Map 1 on the Maps page). A prairie successional community was seeded with native genotype plants in summer of 2001 and is on-going. Native genotype tree species were planted around the flatwoods community in fall of 2000 to establish an ecotone buffer. Installed groundwater monitoring wells are collecting wetland water levels as well as surface and ground water chemistry.
The research program is additionally combining research scientists with graduate and undergraduate students from IUPUI, K-12 students and community families to deliver environmental educational outreach opportunities. A major goal of this project and its programs will be to instill a shared sense of environmental stewardship among all participants regardless of their age, level of expertise or involvement.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis transferred ownership of the Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve property to the Town of Fishers in June 2004. The Town of Fishers Department of Parks and Recreation continues to support and expand the restoration, and generously allows CEES to continue monitoring the restoration.