Fairview Industrial Wetlands has become a sanctuary for native species of plants and animals, as well as the workers from businesses that surround the restored wetland.
Today, Fairview is frequented by great blue herons, cackling geese, green-winged teal, cedar waxwings, cliff swallows and dozens of other bird species. Salem Audubon members use the area for bird walks and bird counts. The website E-Bird has mapped it as a bird hotspot.
The site also includes roughly one mile of walking trails at Parcel 5. Volunteers help City staff maintain the trails and footbridge and assist with invasive species management.
Offsetting lost wetlands
For decades before, farmers used different kinds of drainage systems to create usable farmland. Today, the value of wetlands ecosystems in flood control and as native species habitat, among other reasons, is driving efforts to retain and restore wetland areas.
Each time a wetland is filled or otherwise impacted by development activities state and federal laws require that a compensating amount of wetlands be restored, enhanced or added. The result is "mitigation" areas like the Fairview Industrial Wetlands designed to offset the lost wetlands.
The Fairview Industrial Wetlands consists of two large tracts, Parcels 1 and 5, totaling almost 47 acres. Parce1 1 is mostly a wet meadow type of wetlands. Parcel 5 is mostly a flats type of wetland, including emergent marsh and wet meadow habitats. They are meant to offset the wetlands lost during the development of the Fairview Industrial Park.
Original mitigation activities occurred roughly 20 years ago. Prior to restoration, the sites were mostly farm fields. Since that time, old drainage tiles were prematurely draining the wetland mitigation area. Since 2017, the stormwater crew has worked to retain water in the area using sandbag dams. In 2019, a water control structure was built, resulting in further improvements over the past two years on roughly 10 acres of the wetlands.
The idea is to work with nature, not against it. As the area floods again, the native plants and animals adapted to wet conditions will repopulate the area. At the same time, invasive plants and animals that aren't adapted to the wet conditions will stay away.
Effects of more development in the surrounding area (water modifications, invasive plant and animal infiltration, pollution, etc.), mean this popular natural area will need continued monitoring for years to come.
Benefits of past and future efforts include reduction of flooding, improvement of the city's water quality and preservation of habitat for a wide range of native species. Wetlands also help the city to accommodate a changing climate.
Potential future projects include a parking area specifically for the wetlands, since most visitors arrive by foot from surrounding businesses.
Talks among the Audubon Society and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have centered on the potential for adding a raised walkway and bird blind in Parcel 5 to bring the public closer to nature.