Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton recently completed a new meadow and wildflower trail, which is just under a mile long and weaves through emergent meadow habitat on the far side of the center’s farm pond, creating even more space to explore.
In 2016, Pickering converted two agriculture fields totaling 25 acres to meadow habitat thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the technical expertise of local non-profit partner Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage. Prior to being converted, deer consistently took a heavy toll on soybean crops in the two fields. When the center decided on the change, Pickering’s tenant farmer agreed to revert the fields to a more natural state. Now well established, the fields feature native warm season grasses, an assortment of wildflowers like white snakeroot and goldenrod, shrubs like marsh elder, and a persistent invasion of sweet gum and loblolly pine trees from the neighboring forest. The fields are managed annually by mowing about one third of their area to keep the fields in a permanent emergent meadow state.
In 2018, Pickering Creek received a Recreational Trails grant from the Maryland State Highway Administration and began planning the development of the new trail system, including the installation of a viewing platform highlighting the meadow habitat. The results of the project are a delightful winding trail through one of the two meadows and includes two interpretive panels. One panel illustrates the many creatures that call this type of meadow their home while the second panel describes the seasonal beauty of the meadow through all four seasons.
When leaving the first meadow, one crosses a trail bridge that was recently replaced by Boy Scout Sam DenHerder as part of his Eagle Scout project. The second portion of the trail is nicely shaded by young trees and bordered by meadow habitat.
At the farthest point along the new trail, visitors will arrive at Les’ Lookout Viewing Platform. The 20’ by 30’ platform is dedicated to longtime birder, volunteer and friend of Pickering Creek, Les Roslund, who passed away in 2020. As an avid sharer of nature with Pickering staff and visitors, the platform carries Les’ spirit of being a great place to soak in the beauty of wild nature. The platform sits at the far end of the second meadow field and features a tall lookout that gives a great view of the meadow and a bird’s eye view of the importance of size in meadow habitats. The lower platform features gathering space for school groups, as well as chairs and an interpretive panel highlighting the birds one will most likely see from the platform.
Pickering Creek Audubon Center is located at 11450 Audubon Lane in Easton. The center, a 400-acre working farm, conserves natural habitats on the Eastern Shore of Maryland by engaging and empowering the community through exploration, education, and stewardship. Trails are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about Pickering Creek Audubon Center, visit pickeringcreek.org.