GENEVA, Ind. — Ken Brunswick, who went from dairy farmer to the champion for restoring portions of the Limberlost Swamp, will receive a Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest honor a governor can bestow for contributions to the state.

The award will be presented during the Friends of the Limberlost group’s annual dinner Saturday night at the Limberlost State Historic Site Visitor Center in Geneva.

“He is like a character in a Gene Stratton Porter novel,” said Randy Lehman, a friend and the recently retired site manager for the Limberlost State Historic Site, which author and naturalist Porter once called home.

“He’s very determined,” Lehman said. “He ran into a lot of adversity. A lot of people who ran into as much adversity as Ken probably would not have kept going.”

Brunswick and his family moved to Jay County in the mid-1970s to operate a dairy farm, biographical information compiled by friend Terri Gorney said. After many of his neighbors’ farms flooded in spring 1976, Brunswick did some investigating and discovered his family’s farm included land adjacent to the Limberlost Swamp, which had covered 13,000 acres before begin drained in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Brunswick, who had read Porter’s books while a boy, began working to restore some of his farm to a natural state. In 1993, he led others in founding the group Limberlost Swamp Remembered, which has worked to restore portions of the swamp and to educate people about the value of wetlands, the biography said. The group since has become a committee of the Friends of the Limberlost group, which helps support the Limberlost State Historic Site.

Brunswick later became assistant site manager for the Limberlost State Historic Site, where he worked to restore more of the Limberlost Swamp and led nature programs about the wetlands, Lehman said. In 2001, Brunswick was named the east-central region ecologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Nature Preserves.

By the time he retired in December 2013, the state, Friends of the Limberlost and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) had restored nearly 1,700 acres of the Limberlost Swamp in southern Adams and northern Jay counties, Lehman said. Brunswick also had helped private landowners restore more than 2,000 additional acres through the NRCS’s Wetland Reserve program.

Brunswick’s work has had other impact as well.

Lehman believes the wetlands restoration and educational nature programs Brunswick began offering at the Limberlost State Historic Site helped save the Limberlost cabin as a state historic site. Visitation has doubled since wetlands restoration began, and about half of the site’s approximately 30 educational programs per year now deal with nature, he said.

Restored areas of the Limberlost Swamp also have become a haven for birds, with more than 200 bird species observed there, including some rare ones, Gorney said. The site now attracts birdwatchers from the Fort Wayne area and beyond.

“He’s kind of the story, going back to Gene Stratton Porter, of how one guy can really make a big difference,” Lehman said.

Source: The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel,

Information from: The News-Sentinel,

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel.