About the Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve
Local and national groups are developing plans to manage the Dr. Robert “Doc” Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve on Catawba Island. The beautiful property had long been a special place to enjoy nature and the calm West Harbor waters for the late veterinarian and outdoorsman and his wife, Norma.
After her husband’s death, Norma felt the property should be shared, and made a special arrangement to have it become a park and nature area. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leaders at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Oak Harbor recently signed a partnership agreement with the Black Swamp Conservancy, outlining plans to cooperatively manage the Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve to protect wildlife habitat and increase recreational opportunities.
The site was previously used for farming, and then as a campground, until the late 1990s. In 2003, Dr. Robert L. Nehls and his wife, Norma Nehls, purchased the property. They began restoring it to native habitat by clearing campground remnants from the land. After Dr. Nehls died, Norma Nehls pursued an owner who could convert the site to a publicly accessible natural area. In 2019, Ms. Nehls sold the property to Black Swamp Conservancy, which enlisted the help of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in managing it for public use.
The preserve is located on East Muggy Road in Catawba Island Township. The property covers approximately 21 acres of land and 18 acres of submerged land along West Harbor. Approximately 7.7 acres of the property, formerly in agricultural use, was planted in June 2019 to shortgrass prairie /pollinator meadow habitat.
Other areas within the property will be restored to woodland, wetland, and scrub-shrub habitat. Approximately 8.2 acres of the property has large cottonwood and maple trees spaced to provide an open under-story with plenty of shade.
Through the help of the community, the Friends of Ottawa NWR funded the install of a picnic pavilion and ADA compliant kayak dock that connects the site to the Lake Erie Islands Water Trails.
Donate to help support public access. Because we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, your donation will be tax deductible to the fullest extend allowed by law.
The Nehls Memorial Nature Preserve is located on Muggy Rd, Catawba Island