One plant almost ruined everything at the Black River Nature Preserve.
The 21-acre preserve, located at the northeast corner of Lorain County Community College, had been allowed to grow naturally as a meadow since 1999. Grasses grew tall, attracting butterflies, bees and birds.
Then, a few years ago, Harriet Alger and her Black River Audubon Society friends noticed something disturbing.  A shrub called the gray dogwood was spreading — and fast. Although the plant is native to the area, it’s destructive and almost impossible to remove. 
“Our nesting birds were gone,” says Alger, a 90-year-old who has been passionate about the environment since swimming in Lake Erie while growing up in Lorain. 
Alger arranged a partnership between the college, the Audubon Society, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Together, they came up with a plan to get rid of the dogwood and reseed parts of the meadow.
This spring, with all the dogwood gone, Alger says she’s seen meadowlarks and bobolinks return. “They’ve been singing,” she says. “We know the meadowlarks are nesting again, and we hope the bobolinks will too.”
The other good news is that the scare strengthened everyone’s resolve to preserve the meadow. Before his retirement, Lorain County Community College President Roy Church approved a new contract between the college and the Black River Audubon Society to protect the meadow.