Blanche Katherine Novak Wildlife Sanctuary and State Nature Preserve
The Blanche Kathryn Novak Sanctuary is located about 3/4 of a mile north of the intersection of Townline Road and Ohio St. Rt. 82 in Portage County, Aurora, Ohio (Aurora location map). As shown in the map below, the sanctuary lies both to the west of Townline Rd within Aurora City limits and east of it in Mantua Township.
There is a very fine Category 3 wetland on the Aurora side surrounded by fields and second growth forest. The Mantua side has some wet fields in various states of succession and a large second growth forest. The wetland on the Aurora side had the highest species diversity of five natural wetlands in northern Ohio studied by the Ohio EPA. The wetland is approximately 5/8 miles from the parking lot on Townline Rd and is reached by an old gas company dirt road. There is a marked trail in the woods on the Mantua side.
The sanctuary is a rich habitat for nesting birds with at least 56 species on the Aurora side and 41 species on the Mantua side. The area has been part of the spring bird walks of the Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland since 1993. The resident and migratory birds seen are part of that census. 186 species have been documented here throughout the years.
An observation blind in the wetlands area was completed in 2002, further enhancing their educational potential. The Novak Sanctuary was dedicated as a State Nature Preserve in 1999 (more information) by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Biological Assets: The wetland is protected by both the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Division of Natural Areas. In 1997, Ohio EPA published a report that compared natural wetlands with wetlands created by mitigation projects. One of the 5 wetlands chosen for this study was the Novak wetland. (Fennessy. S. A Functional Assessment of Mitigation Wetlands in Ohio: Comparisons with Natural Systems. Ohio EPA report to the Federal EPA.) Of the wetlands studied, the Novak site had the highest species diversity. Because of the nature of this wetland and the interest in it by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Society was able to get an in lieu agreement with the Corps to obtain conservation easements with money paid by developers for areas with small low grade wetlands.
The Aquatic Biology Class of the Biology Department of Case Western Reserve University has studied the largest wetland pond for several years. The depth of this pond has been mapped with changes in water level registered. Many species of macro-invertebrates were identified. Water quality has also been assessed. There is very little invasion of phragmites (giant reed grass) which has ruined many northern Ohio wetlands. It was discovered that there are some patches of narrow leaf cattail and its hybrid with the native cattail. There are ongoing attempts to control this species. These studies help to make management decisions and lead to a foundation for educational programs and research projects for students of all levels and venues.