The beauty of one of Kentucky’s newest wildlife management areas is not what it is now, but what it will become in the next few decades.
Visitors to the Dr. John C. Williams Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Nelson County have the rare opportunity to visit a wetland hardwoods in the making. The 384-acre site is slowly changing from cropland and former farm pasture into a full-fledged hardwood forest. Thousands of oak trees planted on the property in the 1990s now reach 10 feet high.
“As the forest progresses, it will be a fantastic site for deer, turkey and squirrels,” said Wayne Davis, environmental section chief for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Currently, the area supports a good population of rabbits. Deer hunting is allowed only with a bow or crossbow. Seasonal wetlands draw waterfowl, but Davis said the area is not prime territory for hunting ducks and geese.
Bill Balda, the department’s public lands biologist for the central Kentucky area, said birdwatchers might be interested in the Williams WMA. The last survey revealed 73 different types of birds used the area, including eastern bluebirds, sage wrens, northern harriers, bobolinks, black-throated green warblers, grasshopper sparrows, eastern screech owls and red-winged blackbirds.
The creation of the Williams WMA is the direct result of wetlands destruction elsewhere in the state. When companies or government agencies take wetlands for development, Davis said, new wetlands must be created to mitigate the damage.
Sixty acres of the Williams WMA is a wetlands mitigation project by Home Quarters Warehouse. Waste Management of Kentucky created the remaining acreage to mitigate for wetlands destruction when the company expanded its Outer Loop Landfill in Jefferson County. A dedication ceremony held earlier this year publicly marked the donation of the properties to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
The area was named to honor John Williams, a former World War II veteran, Kentucky State Police trooper, biologist, professor at Eastern Kentucky University and Murray State University, and ex-employee of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Williams died in 1996.
Davis said hundreds of nearby acres are similarly being transformed under separate wetland mitigation projects. This will help create nearly 1,000 acres of wetland habitat in the area, he said.
Companies that once owned the Williams WMA property killed off most of the fescue and planted more than 350 oak trees an acre, Balda said. Davis said years of straight plowing by the former landowner created small ditches that drained the property. Part of the wetlands creation involved blocking these ditches to allow water to stand in the fields following rains.
Beech Fork River borders the south rim of the area. Davis said soils nearest the river drain too well to hold water year-round. The WMA includes some small ponds which are not stocked for fishing.
The Dr. John C. Williams WMA is located just south of Boston in Nelson County. Beech Fork River forms the south boundary while US 62 is the northern border. Bisecting the area is KY 52.
To get there, take the Bluegrass Parkway to Boston (Exit 10). Go north on KY 52 for approximately 2.2 miles to US 62. Turn left (west) onto US 62 and take the first left into a gravel parking lot.
— Dave Baker