Since a major new two-year sponsorship by Marquis Energy of Hennepin, the Wetlands Initiative (TWI) will be able to complete a key new public-access amenity at its Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes, located south of the village of Hennepin in Putnam County.
“The Marquis Oak Ridge Trail will be a big new step in growing the public use and enjoyment of this great nature site,” said TWI Executive Director Paul Botts. “We’re thrilled and humbled by Marquis’ generous support and their confidence in us.”
Marquis Energy’s commitment of $100,000 over two years completes TWI’s fundraising for the new trail, Botts said. The new trail is more costly to build than the site’s existing trails, he said, both because at 2.7 miles, it is easily the longest yet and because it will be constructed to be suitable for bicycles as well as hiking.
Jason Marquis, president of Marquis Management Services, said, “It is important to our family to be good corporate citizens and give back to the community that has treated us so well. We believe the trail offers a unique opportunity to our employees and the community at large to enjoy what nature has to offer at the Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge. We are thankful to be able to contribute to TWI’s efforts on the Marquis Oak Ridge Trail.”
Access to the new trail will be from the levee along the north end of the Dixon Refuge, where a small parking area will be created that will be accessible from Route 26. Interpretive signage along the new trail will inform visitors about the wide range of flora and fauna present as well as the site’s history. The new trail will take visitors through or close to a range of restored habitats, Botts said, including wet and mesic prairie, wet meadow, hemi-marsh and open water.
The Marquis Oak Ridge Trail will open the refuge’s interior to public access for the first time, Botts said. “Now visitors will be able to get out into the middle and have a 360-degree experience of this amazing place without needing to bring a canoe or kayak.”
The new trail will terminate in a short loop through a rare oak savanna located well out into the Refuge. “For folks already familiar with the place, the oak savanna is the clump of big old trees out there which from the lakeshore looks like an island,” Botts said. “It’s actually the south end of an area which a hundred years ago was known locally as Oak Ridge.” A new viewing platform at one edge of the oak savanna will provide up-close views of a recently-restored open-water area that is already attracting a range of waterfowl, Botts said.
Created in 2001 and open to the public year-round, TWI’s Sue and Wes Dixon Waterfowl Refuge at Hennepin and Hopper lakes has been designated both an Audubon Important Bird Area and a Wetland of International Importance under the global Ramsar Convention, one of only 37 “Ramsar sites” in the country. Now totaling more than 3,000 acres, the Refuge is renowned for its diversity of habitats ranging from marshes, rare seeps, and other wetlands to oak savanna, the lakes, and several types of prairie.
The Wetlands Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the wetland resources of the Midwest to improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and biodiversity, and reduce flood damage. TWI has been restoring and managing the Dixon Waterfowl Refuge since 2001.
Marquis Energy LLC is the world’s leading sustainable fuels producer. A major expansion now under construction will double the size of the company’s Hennepin facility. Once that construction is complete Marquis Energy LLC will be the largest pure-play ethanol facility in the world with production capacity exceeding 300 million gallons per year.