Deer Park Prairie: An Update

Published by Kirsti Harms on

By Kirsti Harms, Executive Director

The Transformation of the House and the Prairie

On August 31, Clare Buckner, our new land manager and I took a day trip to Lawther-Deer Park Prairie. One reason was to acquaint Clare with this property. The other was to check on the progress of house repairs and remodel as well as seeing the prairie.  We have had a small, but dedicated group overseeing this transformation. Much appreciation to Beth Clark, Don Verser and Pam Smolen!

I was so pleased to see the condition of the house! We had mold upstairs from past roof and window leaks. There were cracked plumbing pipes that caused mysterious smells for years. The siding was becoming a lichen habitat and leaking. The air conditioner was no longer working well. And bees had moved into the garage walls through exterior holes. We had reached a point where we had to do something or the house would become unusable as a visitor center. It is an important part of Della Barbato’s education program. 

Thanks to Beth for taking the lead on the house project. She found Devin Barrera at Select Build Construction to conduct repairs and renovations. It was a big step for NPAT to tackle this type of project, but the board agreed that the house was worth saving. Pam got involved with the house as well.

The pipe repairs conducted earlier this summer fixed the ongoing sewer gas smell in the house. And now we have new siding, exterior doors, upstairs windows, A/C and other improvements. The old, malfunctioning garage doors were replaced on September 1, making the house more secure.

This is just Phase One. We have plans to open up the downstairs and add multiple restrooms that can be accessed from outside. This will make hosting student and other large groups easier. A fundraising effort is underway to help fund these renovations. Contact Jeff Sargent to find out how you can help!

Don and Pam have been actively involved in the restoration of the prairie.

Meanwhile the prairie has been undergoing major restoration since this spring. Don and Pam have been doing work. And Don has been coordinating with contractors to open up the prairie, and tackle trees and brush. Most of the mottes are gone now, and the focus is now on the nonnative grasses. Thanks to some generous donors and a grant from Ørsted, we have been able to hire contract help. 

In spite of the intense heat and drought, the prairie was green overall. The liatris, rattlesnake master, bush mint and gaura were blooming. With some rain in next week’s forecast, hopefully the prairie will bounce back. Prairies are a resilient landscape. I hope to return soon. It is really exciting to see the transformation of this special property. 

See you on the prairie!