Archived Story

Dear John/Rudolphi refuge

Published 5:48pm Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why are the tall pine trees dying in Rudolphi Wildlife Refuge?


— Gary Bailey, Dowagiac



Gary Carlile, who was there when it opened, said those trees have reached the end of their useful lives.


There are other trees down, as though that tornado that coincided with Dowagiac’s graduation on June 6, 2010, tore through there, too.


Damage was concentrated outside Dowagiac along M-62 between Dead Man’s Hollow and Lindy’s going toward Cassopolis.


There were also pockets of damage on M-51 South in the vicinity of Imperial Furniture, along Cherry Grove Road near Southwestern Michigan College and on Peavine Street.


Rudolphi has seen better days and is neglected and overgrown compared to how I remember it when Scouts performed maintenance service projects.


The 120-acre tract opened with a green ribbon cut by Mayor Graham Woodhouse, flanked by City Manager Karl Tomion and Parks and Recreation Director Gary Carlile on a Wednesday morning, according to the Dec. 4, 1980, Daily News.


My former colleague Blair Davis reported that the refuge had been in preparation for two years and featured three trails and three viewing stations off Dailey Road.


Woodhouse said the refuge was donated in 1978 by philanthropists who wished to remain anonymous.


The wildlife refuge is named for Art Rudolphi of Rudy’s, “forerunner of Sundstrand,” Modine and National Copper Products.


The mayor recalled that with the donation of land, the city was able to get a matching federal grant for $56,000.


With the money from the Department of the Interior Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, Woodhouse said the city began establishing the area as a wildlife refuge.


According to a map carved in wood at the entrance, it contained three trails of different lengths.


Woodhouse said 1 1/4 miles of trails were constructed along with three log viewing stations placed in different topography — a marsh and stream area, a pond area and a field.


The viewing stations were for observation of various types of wildlife that frequent those habitats, but through the years shelters fell victim to vagrants, vandals and arson.


Next to the map was a list of don’ts. The primary purpose of the park was interpreting and observing native flora and fauna, which is why running and jogging were prohibited, along with motor vehicles, horses, pets and fires.


Cross-country skiing was permitted because it was thought that activity would not “disrupt natural patterns.


“Rudolphi is not an area to be used as a park for recreation,” Woodhouse said, “but is to be used by persons or small groups who have a sincere desire to study and observe the natural environment.”


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