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Construction on Richard M. Nixon County Park's new wetlands is nearly complete, but residents may not be able to enjoy the habitat up close until next year.

Francis Velazquez, manager of education for York County Parks and Recreation, said once construction finishes, crews will begin planting for several weeks and "seeing what takes."

"We'll monitor to make sure it's functioning as a wetlands hydrologically and biologically, with the right communities," he said. "It's very exciting."

The wetlands, which are being built to replace a habitat being disturbed by an Interstate 83 improvement project, will allow the 190-acre park in Springfield Township to extend its hiking trails and will be used as a teaching tool.

The couple of acres of land being converted to wetlands were once owned by Lost & Found Horse Rescue and were acquired by the county in 2010.

Velazquez said the trail to the wetlands will be closed during the summer to allow plants and wildlife to settle in, and it will likely open either this fall or spring 2017.

Plants and wildlife: A lot of variables, including average water levels and temperature, will affect the varieties of plants and wildlife that thrive in the new wetlands, Velazquez said.

Crews will plant four different native wildflower mixes, he said, and each associates with particular conditions.

A few new animals, including wood frogs and a red-shouldered hawk, have already migrated into the new environment, Velazquez said.

"We'll just have to wait and see what discovers us," he said, in terms of additional wildlife expected in the area.

Before construction began, a great blue heron used to frequent the nearby creek, and Velazquez said he'd enjoy seeing it back once the wetlands begin to take shape.

Velazquez also hopes to see cardinal flowers and square-stemmed monkey flowers, he said.

Funding and other aspects: The wetlands project also includes a boardwalk and bridge section over the stream, a parking area and an outdoor classroom.

The trail that will run through the wetlands will link up with the park's existing trails and, in the future, will connect with the Hollow Creek Greenway.

Because of the tie-in with the greenway, hikers will be able to walk the roughly 12 miles from Reynolds Mill Road to Kain County Park, Velazquez said previously.

A large portion of funding — $593,387— for the project is coming from the state Department of Transportation because its project at Mount Rose Avenue, I-83 Exit 18, in Spring Garden Township, is disturbing wetlands there.

Springfield Township and Loganville are putting forth $51,384 each, said Tammy Klunk, county parks director.

The county kicked in the remaining $148,131, she said.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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