January 26, 2004 Thurston Nature Center Committee Meeting

7:00-8:30 pm, Thurston Elementary School Library


Present: Vicki Botek, Jim Breck, Beth Caldwell, Mike Conboy, Tom Edsall, Heidi Koester, Tim Markel, Dave Szczygiel



Mike proposed that it might be necessary to destroy some less important trees (e.g., cottonwood, Norway maple) in the center in order to protect some of the more important and rarer ones (e.g., ginko, American chestnut).  One way to do so would be to “girdle” the less desirable trees.  It was suggested that the process could be explained on the kiosk so that people would not wonder why certain trees were appearing damaged.



Elsa Stuber had submitted proposed by-laws, based on discussion at meetings and other input from the committee.  In Elsa’s absence, Heidi presented the proposed language, and discussion followed.  Language regarding majority vote was added to #4.  In addition, the mission statement was changed to reflect that the committee is responsible for guiding and promoting the maintenance of the nature center, rather than responsible for the maintenance, per se. (Document is attached.)


It was agreed that meetings should be run generally according to Roberts’ Rules of Order.


Tom moved to adopt the by-laws with the changes.  Beth seconded the motion.  There was brief further discussion.  The vote was 5 in favor, 0 opposed and 0 abstained.  (Note: some attendees arrived after the vote had taken place.)



Neal was not present for a communication group presentation, but there was brief discussion.  It was believed that Chris Wiseman had the keys to the kiosk sign, and agreed that duplicate keys should be available at the school and perhaps with at least one committee member.  Suggestions for the display case contents included a banner with the name of the center, a note about the illegality of trapping reptiles for sale and recent sightings of animals in the center.  Tom had an article about a case of nearby illegal reptile selling.  (Note: Earlier it had been suggested that various available maps of the center could be put on the website.)



Tom, Jim and Heidi reported on the water data that had been collected, and distributed printed materials.  Basically, Thurston Pond is a warm water pond.  Depths have not varied much since 1999, except in the northeast corner.  There is a layer of loose material over the original hard clay bottom in that area.  Some other areas have a layer of what seems like loosened mud.  Dredging a couple of channels for sediment to wash into might restore the firm bottom and allow plant growth.  Measurements of dissolved oxygen and other factors were presented.  The pond has a high degree of dissolved phosphorous which encourages the growth of phytoplankton which in turn produce oxygen and affect the pH balance of the pond.  Also, near the end of summer, the phosphorous content of the water was high.  Secchi Disk transparency measurements showed that the transparency of the water is dramatically reduced in the summer/during warmer weather.  Submerged aquatic plants cannot survive because light is blocked out by algae.  The combination of factors contributes to the lack of diversity of aquatic life in the pond.


Discussion included suggestions to use the collected data to understand the pond’s dynamics and to have numbers to support any proposals or actions.  It was agreed that the committee look at what other groups have done with similar situations.


Tom proposed, with just a few reservations, that we use the Thurston Nature Center Analysis and Ecosystem Management Plan laid out in the University of Michigan School of NRE Masters Project of May 1997.  He moved to formally adopt the plan.  Vicki seconded the motion.  The vote was 6 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstained.


Heidi presented a proposal to develop a pond restoration plan (attached) in stages.  The school will ultimately have to approve or reject any plan.  The Ann Arbor school district has a natural area group for environmental services. The committee would need an actual plan to show them.  Beth moved to adopt the plan.  Vicki seconded the motion.  The motion was passed, 6 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstained.  For the February meeting, Tom will try to prepare a water summary regarding stage one of the plan for the February meeting.


Heidi distributed copies of Lakeline magazine, and pointed out an article about shallow lakes, which might useful to the committee in understanding and restoring Thurston Pond.  Tom pointed out that a smaller system, like the pond, is easier to disturb, but can be cheaper to fix than a bigger system.  Jim reiterated the importance of clear water versus a turbid state.


Other business

Vicki shared the purple loosestrife control bulletins that she had ordered from Michigan State University.  The copies are available to any interested committee member.


Tim brought some TNC archives to turn over to the committee.  Heidi took them for safekeeping.


The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 pm.  The next meeting will take place in Thurston Elementary School library on February 16, 2004 at 7:00 pm.

Thurston Nature Center Committee Guidelines
Adopted, 1-25-04

1.    Thurston Nature Center (TNC) Committee is a sub-committee of and
accountable to Thurston School's Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).

2.    The purpose of the committee is to:
    - identify the needs of the TNC consistent with the mission statement
    - identify and organize volunteers to support implementation of activities
    - serve as a communication forum for the community that utilizes TNC.

3.    The committee should consist of at least 7 members composed of:
    - Principal and/or a teacher of Thurston School
    - minimum of two Thurston parents
    - minimum of three Thurston community members that do not have children at
Thurston School
    - representatives of Clague School and OHAC are encouraged.

4.    Members will serve two-year terms, beginning in fall.  Members will be
recruited in the following ways:
    a.  current members may elect to continue serving by notifying the chair
prior to completing their terms and with committee approval;
b.  new members may volunteer or be recruited by the committee.
    New members may be added mid-year with committee approval.  All people are
welcome to attend TNC meetings and participate in discussion, but only
those on the committee roster are eligible to vote.  Family members are one
voting unit.  Then TNC chair votes only to break a tie.  Unless otherwise
specified in these guidelines, decisions will be made by a majority vote.

5.    A chair and secretary/treasurer will be elected at the end of the school
year to serve two-year terms.  Officers may serve consecutive terms with
committee approval.

6.    The TNC will meet monthly during the school year, or as determined
by the chair.  A quorum shall be five members of the committee,
who must be present to conduct any official business.  The meetings will be
conducted according to Robert's Rules of Order.  Notice of the meeting
dates will be in the Thurston School Newsletter.

7.    These guidelines may be amended by a 2/3 vote of the committee.
Proposed changes must be given in writing at least 30 days prior to the
meeting in which the vote is to be taken.

8.    The philosophy of decision by consensus will guide the committee.
However, the ultimate decision is with the official TNC committee members.

Thurston Nature Center's Land Use Policy and Mission Statement
Adopted, 1-25-04

The Thurston Nature Center Committee is responsible for guiding and
promoting the maintenance of the nature center and development of
long-range plans for preservation of this land and water.  Then TNC should
be managed as a natural environment for the benefit of the Ann Arbor Public
School's Environmental Education Program and the local Community.  The goal
of the TNC Committee is to maintain the nature center with plants, tress,
shrubs, and animal species indigenous to the State of Michigan.  Then TNC
Committee should approve the planting of trees, shrubs, and other plants,
the introduction or removal of any animals and the altering of the
wetlands, pond, and land of the nature center, such as trail maintenance,
plant removal and cutting grass.  Any changes to the nature center must
prior approval by the TNC Committee.  Then TNC should be available to all
community members to use and enjoy on an equal basis.

Development of a Pond Restoration Plan
Process, Adopted 1-25-04

Stage 1.  Statement of the Problem.  The deliverable here is to clearly
define the problem we are trying to solve, and the specific indicators of
that problem.  This could be complete by Feb 2004.

Stage 2.  Goals and Vision.  The deliverable here is a clear statement of
our vision for where we want the pond to end up, i.e., the results we want
and why.  This might include a blue-sky section, as well as a presentation
of more realistic goals.  I recommend that we also solicit input from other
stakeholders, such as neighbors, OHAC, and Thurston and Clague schools.
Target for completion is Mar 2004.

Stage 3.  Identify potential solutions to the problem that will achieve the
goals.  Note that this would not be in-depth research on the feasibility
and relative merits of the potential solutions, but just a stage where we
try to determine the range of possibilities that might work.  Examples of
potential solutions would include draw-down, dredging, biomanipulation, a
combination of all of these, do nothing (as a contrast condition), among
others.  The recommendations of the Millers' Creek folks would also be
considered.  Target for completion is April 2004.

At the completion of Stage 3, we present the package to the school district
(the landowner) for consideration.  They have an existing process in place
for facilitating restoration of school-owned natural areas.  Following this
would be critical for success at Stages 4, 5, and 6 below.

Stage 4.  Selection of feasible solutions, and in-depth research on each.
i.e., of the possibilities generated in Stage 3, select the ones that make
the "first cut."  Then do the additional research required, in conjunction
with a pond/lake restoration professional.

Stage 5.  Selection of most feasible solution.

Stage 6.  Develop specific plan and timetable for implementation.