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NASA Plum Brook Station Prairies
Up to 3000 acres of native Ohio tallgrass prairie are being conserved, restored, and managed at this large federal facility.
NASA Plum Brook Station Prairies
NASA Plum Brook Station’s formal address is 6100 Columbus Avenue, Sandusky, OH 44870. The prairies are located within the 6400-acre site, and are not accessible to the public without prior arrangement (see Visitation Information below).
The prairies being restored at Plum Brook Station are located within the original Firelands Prairie, in the Lake Plains Ohio Prairie Region (Prairie Regions of Ohio)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Glenn Research Center.
NASA Plum Brook Station is 6400 acres, 10 square miles. The site was a WWII explosives manufacturing facility, the Plum Brook Ordnance Works. In the late 1950s and 1960s, NASA acquired use of the site, with the construction and operation of several world-class aerospace test facilities, including the world’s largest deep-space vacuum chamber (the Space Power Facility), an enclosed static space-environment cryogenic rocket engine test stand (the Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility), one of the world’s fastest pure-air wind tunnels (the Hypersonic Tunnel Facility), and a now-removed nuclear reactor.
Until the last decade, management of Plum Brook Station plant communities was only moderately focused. Large former meadows succeeded to dense stands of shrubs, and the infrequency of prescribed fires allowed both common and rare prairie plants to diminish.
But in recent years, NASA has supported detailed species inventories and species management efforts, including strong and effective use of prescribed fire, and seed collection and prairie seeding efforts. Control and suppression of invasive species is on-going.
Eventually, up to 3000 acres. Presently (2013) slightly more than 1000 acres are being restored to native prairie and prairie oak forest and savanna.
Most of the lands at Plum Brook Station are in a natural state, and native plant community management efforts to restore original pre-settlement habitats are on-going and long-term projects. Over 3000 acres of the Station were a part of the large Firelands Prairie in presettlement times; and because no agricultural herbicides were used on the farms occupying the former Plum Brook Ordnance Works (created in 1941), original prairie plant species have survived, but often in small, localized populations. A number of state-endangered or -threatened prairie species have been discovered and are being carefully protected and restored.
Several of Plum Brook Station’s rare prairie plant species include: Ashy Sunflower, Helianthus mollis (Ohio’s largest population); Great Lakes Goldenrod, Euthamia (formerly Solidago) remota; Rough White Lettuce, Prenanthes aspera; Virginia Meadowbeauty, Rhexia virginica; among many others.
Prairie biologists at Plum Brook Station have devised efficient new seeding techniques that are allowing the re-seeding of hundreds of acres of former prairie, at minimal cost (but with lengthy and slow establishment periods).
In five to ten years, Plum Brook Station is envisioned to have over 3000 acres of authentically restored Firelands Prairie, including extensive tallgrass prairies, adjacent oak-hickory savannas (on the sandy soils in the SW of the site), and smaller expanses of wet prairie. When completed, this will be one of largest tallgrass prairie restorations in North America.
Authentically interested visitors and organizations are invited and encouraged to visit Plum Brook Station prairies. But for obvious reasons, the entire site is closed to the public, without pre-arranged and scheduled visitation procedures. Individuals and groups are invited to contact Plum Brook Station to arrange a prairie biologist-guided visit to the prairie sites of the Station. Visitors must first make appropriate visitation (scheduling) arrangements with NASA by contacting Plum Brook Station at 419-621-3344. At least ten day’s lead-time is required, along with name, address, and the phone number of visitors. Visitors must be US citizens, and present at the Security Gate a photo ID, such as a driver’s license.
Because of normal testing and other operations at the Station, not every visit request can be accommodated, but the interested public is warmly invited to request visitation information at the phone number above.
The receptionist can also provide contact information for the Plum Brook Station prairie biologists, who would be delighted to relate the details of their projects and management techniques.