Thurston Nature Center Committee Meeting April 19, 2004


Present: Katie Richter, Heidi Koester, Bram Van Leer, Beth Caldwell, Mike Conboy, Janet Baty, Neal Foster, Georgia White-Epperson, Tim Marker, Jim Breck, Lia Van Leer


Heidi called meeting to order.  Quorum of at least 5 members met, no addition to the voting roster.  March Meeting Minutes were approved. Only one objection, Bram Van Leer requested that the March meeting minutes state his opposition to the Boy Scott project if the project included the picnic table, which he sent in writing prior to the March meeting.  Since Bram did not attend the March meeting, let the April Meeting minutes reflect Bram’s opposition to the picnic table. 


Communication Report: Neal reported that information is now on the bulletin board in the kiosk.  Group reported good response by community.  Future challenge will be to keep updating the information so it does not become stale and people stop reading it.  Neal requested that if anyone has ideas for items to display in the kiosk to contact him. 


New Business:

Bram stated that the erosion on the berm is as bad as it was 12 years ago when it was reinforced.   Regardless of what is decided upon for the pond, Bram advocated that the committee consider the berm erosion problem independently.


Bram also alerted the committee that he suspects goose families are being abducted from the pond area.  Since the mid 1990’s Goose families have disappeared abruptly.  It is not clear who is removing the families or for what reason.  Although geese may have a bad reputation, it is educational to watch them raise families and the public responds well to seeing the goslings.  Bram has tried contacting the city of Ann Arbor but no one claims to have removed geese from Thurston pond.  Tim is aware of a geese relocation program for the Golf courses, but it is unlikely that the same program would have anything to do with Thurston pond.   Bram and Mike have observed 2 Goose families currently nesting around the pond.  Bram requested that we be vigilant and aware of the problem.


Draft: Restorative Actions for Thurston Pond

Heidi presented the draft document.  Three changes were made since the email version was sent out to the committee: final sentence of the introduction, the table on page 3, 3rd column heading and the final paragraph topic sentence.  

The document is not meant to be a recipe for action.  As amateurs we are not telling the school district what action to take, but presenting possibilities for consideration.  We will need to decide what to do with this document, either to approve it or go back and rework the document and research issues more. The school district owns the land and they will decide what can and should be done.  We can only point out issues, problems, solutions and express our preferences.  


Heidi reviewed each section of the draft:

Neal corrected use of rough fish, should be “exotic fish”.  We discussed some specifics about rotenone.  It is an organic that breaks down quickly.  It kills fish by suffocating them; it is not a poison.  The fish die quickly.  Concern was raised about the birds that rely on the fish.  How long before we can restock with native fish species?  Jim suggested that we could apply the rotenone over the winter by breaking some ice.  This would have minimal impact on the birds’ food source.


In addition to educating the community about phosphorus run off, we should also explain why they should not dispose of their cast-away pet goldfish or coy in the pond. 


Erosion control should include the erosion problem at Clague inlet. 


Engineering approaches: Draw down or dredge

The pond is not large, so we could test the idea of a drawdown without lots of cost by pumping the water out.  On the subject of dredging, many present expressed a personal preference to avoid dredging unless absolutely necessary because dredging would be disruptive, costly or smelly.  But Heidi felt it was important to include this option in the document because it is the first idea that comes to people’s minds when considering actions to improve the pond.  Others agreed dredging is disruptive but might be necessary.   Document is incomplete without this option.


Neal pointed out that even though we are amateurs, we do have a lot of expertise on this pond.  We can make a stronger case than the draft document puts forward.  Bram felt that the paper should explain in more detail what risks and disruptions might entail from each action.  For example dredging may cause a stench that may be unacceptable to neighboring homeowners.  Or that the pond may not fill up and mud flats would be exposed.  Heidi expressed that the document is not meant to be exhaustive, but a starting point for researching particular options.  We should not spend our time creating an end all research paper without knowing which if any of these options will be considered.


In order to assess how detailed the document should be, Neal asked who is the intended audience and how knowledgeable is the audience about this subject.  The document would go to Randy Trent in the school district.  He is knowledgeable about pond issues, having decided on the scarlet pond in the past.  Neal suggested we could cite examples from Scarlet pond in our document, Bram suggested to note the differences between Scarlet and Thurston ponds. 


We discussed the idea of submitting the entire document to Randy Trent, or inviting him to a meeting and asking him for feedback.  Perhaps some of the options we are expecting to research further are not even feasible. We could save ourselves time and effort.  Randy could also tell us more about what areas of the document need to be more detailed for the intended audience.   The group discussed how assertive our document should be.   Two ideas evolved, one stating that we should advocate our preferences strongly, and another that we should state all options more objectively, “wishy washy approach”. 


 Jim felt that the document is a good start and good enough to solicit feedback via an informal review with Randy Trent.    Bram made a motion to revise the document based on input from this meeting and emails sent out to Heidi over the next 1 week.  The revised document would come back for approval at the May meeting.  Motion seconded and approved. 

Motion by Katie (?) to send out an email asking for informal acceptance of the document, stating that you have read the document and approve it.  (my recollection is that this motion was seconded and approved, but my written notes do not reflect this… can anyone confirm this for the record? -Katie)

This will facilitate quick approval vote at May meeting.  In the meantime Heidi will contact Randy and ask for advice on how to proceed. 


May is the last meeting for this year.  People who have served 2 consequetive years, notify Heidi if you would like to continue serving.  Committee must approve continued service at the May meeting.  If you know people who might want to be on the committee, invite them to attend.  We will be electing officers at the next meeting for Chair and Secretary/Treasurer. 


The meeting ended with a walk through of the Nature Center led by Mike Conboy.  See the land report below.  


Minutes by Katie Richter.  

Send changes or corrections to the minutes to Katie Richter,






Thurston Prairie was burned on Tuesday, march 23, 2004 at 5:30 to 7:15 PM.  The prescription was submitted to the Fire Department on February 27, 2004, and a permit was obtained for a March burn when weather and biomass conditions were favorable.  Conditions on burn day were checked with the Natural Areas Preservation group for humidity and west wind at (5 to 15 MPH).  Phone calls produced 6 volunteers. 

The Fire Department was notified by phone on the burn day before the fire was set and after it was out.


Site preparation in advance included brush cutting and removal of trash, especially paper, which creates a danger of spreading the fire to other areas by blowing away.  Follow up work involved removing briars, brush limbs and unburned invasives.  Copies of the prescription and permit are available for future reference




Signs were renovated or replaced for trees and flowers along the path from the bridge around the east side of the pond to the amphitheatre  The work was done by a family of three home schoolers using a mobile work bench for printing, wire bending and nailing.  They have offered to complete the work on another day.




Five loads of chips, (25 cu. yds.) were delivered to two sites. (Yorktown and Prairie) by Ann Arbor Forestry Dept.  Five cubic yards were moved by trailer from Prairie St. to the Bluett stairway entrance for better access to the Northeast paths.  A total of 50 volunteers worked on Saturday and Sunday and the following Thursday to complete the paths using the chips.  Five Cub Scouts and their parents finished the trails on Thursday evening.




Ten families have agreed to adopt trees in the past month, and fifteen more families have indicated interest.  Sixteen Brownie Scouts have adopted six trees and have scheduled Monday evening, May 24th to do the work.  A small number of endangered trees have been selected for high priority attention.  A list of Adopted Trees with family names will be posted in the Kiosk


Mike Conboy, Land Steward