In 2021, the Alliance teamed up with a federal partner and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to restore over five acres of wetlands at Cedar Point Wildlife Management Area in Charles County, Maryland. The site is located adjacent to Goose Creek on the Potomac River, and was a former agricultural field more recently dominated by invasive grasses and sweetgum saplings.

In the summer of 2022, the Alliance excavated four shallow wetland cells on the site. These large, shallow depressions are designed to mimic wetland conditions by capturing and storing rainwater and groundwater, thereby providing the unique conditions that our native wetland species require to thrive. While it is above ground, the water serves as a critical habitat for waterfowl and amphibians.

A wetland cell during construction.

Shortly after the wetland cells were installed, countless frog egg masses and tadpoles were observed in the new habitat. Wetland conditions had been absent from the landscape for decades, and it didn’t take long for over two dozen species of native wetland plants like pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) and soft rush (Juncus effusus) to begin to voluntarily reestablish. It is possible that seeds from these plants were lying dormant in the soil for years, and began to grow when wetland conditions returned to the site.

A wetland cell shortly after construction.

Soil removed during the excavation of the wetland cells was spread in an adjacent field and seeded with a meadow/pollinator mix to provide additional habitat. In fall 2022, we planted over 2,500 native trees and shrubs that will serve as wildlife habitat while they take up nutrients and absorb carbon. Some of the species planted include river birch (Betula nigra), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), and hazel alder (Alnus serrulata). During fall and winter, the pools will serve as a refuge and food source for the thousands of waterfowl migrating south for the winter.

The site during the tree planting in fall 2022.

Shallow, wooded wetlands like what was installed at Cedar Point once dominated the landscape of the Chesapeake’s coastal plain. These non-tidal wetlands were largely created and maintained by beavers. Over the last few centuries, large swaths of these wetlands were deforested and drained to make way for agriculture and development. Now, many former wetlands that were converted to agricultural fields lay fallow, allowing restoration opportunities similar to those of Cedar Point.

Wetlands are crucial to the health and resiliency of the Bay in a time of rapidly changing climate. Wetlands are significant greenhouse gas absorbers, and the thousands of new trees and acres of wetland plants at Cedar Point are all capturing carbon as they grow. Climate change is also extending periods of wet and dry cycles. In times of drought, groundwater stored by wetlands can be critical in sustaining our native plants and animals. In times of extended rainfall, that same storage capability prevents or lessens flooding of our communities and important infrastructure.

If you are interested in seeing the project, feel free to stop by! Cedar Point Wildlife Management Area, which is owned and managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is open to the public seven days a week. There are 1,914 acres of forest, fields, and wetlands for hunting, hiking, birding, and more.

Plan your visit