Watts designed and supervised creation of a new 3-acre wetland at Evangola State Park that reclaimed a natural landscape from a former fill area in a visible area of the Park. Watts developed this wetland as compensatory mitigation for wetlands filled during nearby Thruway reconstruction that impacted two acres of wetlands regulated by the Corps and NYSDEC. Watts assisted the NYS Thruway Authority with regulatory coordination.
The Evangola wetland now provides ecologically important habitat along the Lake Erie shoreline while offering educational and recreational opportunities. Watts facilitated the agency cooperation between NYSTA and NYS Parks that made the project possible, and the USACE Section 404/401 and NYSDEC Article 24 permitting processes.
The project has been well received by Parks staff, who have touted the educational and aesthetic benefits in addition to the improved wildlife habitat. The combination of shallow marsh and wet meadow habitats supports amphibian and reptile species, nesting habitat for breeding birds, and a stopover for migrating birds. Educational benefits include an outdoor learning space to study marsh ecology in a safe setting for children. Paths and interpretive signs connect wetland viewing areas to the park trail system.
Design complexities included: complex grading and planting plans; removal of 20,000 cubic yards of rocky fill; preservation of existing trees; incorporating human use while minimizing conflict with habitat; and maintaining multiple park uses. The wetland has been functioning as designed, even during severe drought.