Southeastway Park is located in southeastern Marion County in Franklin Township. The park is owned by the City of Indianapolis and managed by Indy Parks and Recreation. The primary focuses of land stewardship in Southeastway Park are the removal of invasive exotic plant species and the promotion of natural plant communities and habitats.
The park consists of approximately 188 acres of varied terrain. Of this 188 acres, approximately 95 acres are natural areas consisting of mesic and floodplain woods, successional fields, prairie plantings, and an excavated wetland and pond. The other 95 acres make up the turf areas, parking lots, roads, and buildings of the park. Buck Creek runs through the woods in the western section of the park. The park has amenities such as picnic shelters and playgrounds that are heavily used. However, the park has a stronger emphasis on passive rather than active recreation.
Southeastway Park, like all of Marion County, is located in the Tipton Till Plain Section of the Central Till Plain Natural Region of Indiana. This is the largest natural region of Indiana. Before European settlement, about 99 percent of Marion County was covered with closed canopy forest (Barr 1999). This forest was composed of flatwoods, mesic forest, upland forest and ephemeral swamps (Hedge 1997). The rest of the county was composed of wetland plant communities included fens, bogs, sedge meadows, wet prairies, swamps and marshes (Hedge 1997). After settlement, most of these forest and plant communities were cleared and converted for agricultural use or developed for other purposes. Fragments of the original forest were allowed to grow back for timber harvesting or because the soils were unsuitable for farming or other development. These fragments make up most of the remaining hardwood forests of Marion County.
The woodlands of Southeastway Park each differ from the other in terms of age, level of disturbance, soil, topography, and use. These differences dictate that different stewardship methods must be used for successful restoration to occur. Collectively, these areas make up a riparian forest buffer that helps protect Buck Creek. The National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) specifically lists several things that riparian buffers do. These include:
- Creating shade, which lowers water temperatures. Water discharged from wooded riparian corridors is also cooler than surface runoff from cleared areas. Lower temperatures improve conditions for fish and other aquatic life.
- Providing tree shade that helps reduce excessive algae growth.
- Providing a corridor for wildlife.
- Reducing excess amounts of sediment, nutrients, organic material, and other pollutants in surface runoff.
- Nutrients and other chemicals in shallow groundwater flow are also reduced.
- Providing trees and their roots, which armor stream banks and reduce erosion rates.
- Trees also absorb stream energy during out of bank flooding which helps reduce erosion potential.
Succession has traditionally been defined as the slow, regular changes that a natural community undergoes after a disturbance (Pickett 1995). These disturbances can be natural (such as wind damage) or induced by human activity (such as deforestation). Succession, if allowed to proceed without further disturbance, continues until the natural community recovers to its highest level of succession (climax). Conventional wisdom once suggested that succession was somewhat deterministic and that over time a natural community would eventually look like it did before it was disturbed. Contemporary thinking suggests that natural areas are in a more constant flux and succession does not always lead to an expected outcome. Changing seed sources, climate fluctuations, population fluctuations of herbivores and their predators, and disease all affect succession (Pickett 1995). Many of these fluctuations are the direct result of human activity and should be noted when a successional area is being managed for a specific outcome.
Prairies are part of the natural landscape of Indiana. The Grand Prairie Natural Region covers much of the northwest corner of the state. Other smaller, isolated prairie fragments occurred naturally throughout the state, including the Tipton Till Plain Natural Region. However, like the forests, European settlers cleared most of the prairie for agricultural purposes.
Although tall grass prairies are not native to Marion County, many of the plants that make up prairies are. These plants naturally occurred in isolated openings and niches throughout Indiana. Tall grass prairie plantings provide many benefits such as educational opportunities, wildlife habitat and food, minimal maintenance, erosion control, and aesthetics.
Wetland and pond
Land stewardship management concerning the wetland and pond include monitoring the survival of installed wetland plants and controlling invasive plants. Also the wetland and pond each have an island that will be planted with native species.
Aquatic Project Wild, an education and conservation program for educators, lists several functions that wetlands accomplish. These include:
- Storage of excess water caused by runoff
- Resting places for birds during migration
- Providing food and shelter for a diverse group of wildlife
- Mixing water with nutrients and oxygen
- Filtering impurities from water and neutralizing toxic substances
Barr, R. C., Hall, B. E., Bacone, J. A., Campbell, R. K., Johnson, D. P. & Wilson, J. S. (1999). Changes in Marion County's Natural Environment Between the Time of European Settlement, ca. 1820, and the Present, 1997. Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES)
Hedge, R. L. (1997). Forested swell and swale: The Central Till Plain Natural Region. In M.T. Jackson (Ed.), The natural heritage of Indiana (pp. 195-199). Indiana University Press.
Natural Resources Conservation Service ( November 26, 1996). Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation practice standard: riparian forest buffer.
Pickett, S.T.A. & Ostfeld, R.S. (1995). The shifting paradigm in ecology. In R.L. Knight & S.F. Bates (Eds.), A new century for natural resources management (pp. 261-278). Washington, DC: Island Press.
USDA, NRCS (1999). The PLANTS database (http://plants.usda.gov/plants) . National Plant Data Center. Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.