Minutes of the Thurston Nature Center Committee

September 20, 2004


Present: Heidi Koester, Chair, Jan Baty, Vicky Botek, Jim Breck, Beth Caldwell, Mike Conboy, Tom Edsall, Neal Foster, David Miller, Katie Richter, David Szczygiel, Bram and Lia van Leer, Georgia White-Epperson.


The meeting was called to order at 7:05.  A quorum was met.


Heidi described the duties of the new secretary/treasurer to Georgia White-Epperson.  These include establishing a quorum, setting the agenda, additions to voting roster, writing up minutes, and presenting previous minutes to the committee for approval.


Water Quality Report -  Heidi

Heidi sent off the spring phosphorus sample to Lansing, but has had no reply from them yet.  The Secchi disk test (performed every two weeks over the summer) has averaged 6-7”.  The fall phosphorus test must be performed within the next seven days.  In response to a query, Heidi will check on performing a sediment test as well.


Purple Loosestrife and Canadian Geese – Neal


Neal released approximately 200 beetles (which species Neal?) this Spring and they have already reduced the loosestrife population, although it will take 3 –4 years for the beetle population to reach a good balance for keeping the loosestrife in check.  The beetle larvae eat new growth, thus weakening the plant so that greater plant death occurs over the winter and it does not flower as readily in the Spring.  In response to a query from Vicky, Neal said that cutting flowers and seed heads is beneficial to prevent reseeding.  This is the second inoculation of beetles at Thurston Pond.


Neal passed out copies of a document based on his email exchanges with Bram and Dr. Charles MacInnis, Wildlife Research Biologist, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (ret.).


Neal thinks that our large snappers are eating the goslings almost as soon as they hatch.  He believes a less likely possibility is that the parents leave for better grazing grounds after the goslings hatch.  In response to Mike S.’s query about what other large prey  snappers take, Neal responded that they eat crawfish and fish.  Recent surveys of the pond have revealed low crawfish and fish populations, although these were not comprehensive.  Bram did not entirely agree with Neal’s view and referred the committee to his comments in the handout.


As this is the first committee meeting of the year, each member of the committee introduced themselves and their reason for being on the committee.




Land Report – Mike


Mike handed out the Land Steward Report.  The Fall Work Weekend will be on Saturday Oct. 2 from 1-4 PM and Sunday October 3 from 2-5 PM.  Mike is focusing on the Adopt a Tree program.  He has been passing out Adopt a Tree forms in the neighborhood and passed them out to committee members as well.


The rock reef which Mike, Tom, Heidi, and Dan put in last Spring appears to be working.  There was some discussion about limiting mowing by OHAC and natural landscaping to further prevent erosion.


Mike believes that girdling the volunteer ash trees and leaving the dead trees up for cavity nesting birds would be beneficial.  Most of these ashes are only 15 years old and few are near the trail.  There was discussion about whether the dead trees could serve as an incubator for emerald ash borers to infect other trees in neighborhood.  This discussion progressed to a general discussion about removing possible hazard trees and limbs from near the trail.  As this is school property, the city will remove hazardous limbs.  Dave S. will check with Randy Trent about the limbs.


The trash can near the amphitheater was either moved or removed recently.  Vicky will check on this.


Neal will print a few flyers about the Fall Work Day to post around area and on the bulletin board.


Thurston Pond Briefing Book –Tom

Tom handed out copies of “Restoration of the Thurston Pond Ecosystem” which is a compilation of the work TNCC has done so far toward initiating restoration of Thurston Pond and which will be used as a briefing book to be given to the city. Tom worked with Jim, Mike and Heidi to pull this document together over the summer.  He handed out two  follow-ups to the July meeting with his critique of the Thurston Pond Briefing Book       (“Restoration of the Thurston Pond Ecosystem”).


Tom added that he would like to investigate whether the high phosphate and carbon content of the pond might be due, at least in part, to seasonal use by the Canadian geese.


Goal setting for 2004-2005 – Heidi

Heidi handed out a ranked list of last year’s goals listing how much had been accomplished on each.  We briefly discussed each goal.  Heidi said that she had met with Randy Trent and Pat Manley after our last meeting to discuss restoration of the pond.  Heidi was pleased to learn that other groups (particularly Miller Creek) outside the neighborhood are interested in restoration of Thurston Pond, particularly with regard to storm water run-off.


We decided that Policies and Procedures were finished and could be removed from the list and that the Eagle Scout project was dormant for this year.


Dave Miller said that he knows Clague’s principal, David Hecker, and could talk to him about TNCC.


Heidi solicited suggestions for other possible goals.  Lia was concerned about the condition of the berm, particularly given the heavy rain this past spring.  The berm has not been refurbished in 12 years and has sunk about 6-8”.  Some discussion followed as to whether this should be a short term goal or would be part of the long term restoration project.


Mike suggested that we add some sort of extension into the water to allow children or adults to access deeper parts of the pond without wading in muck.  A wooden walkway was suggested. Dave S. pointed out that similar structures at Scarlett were vandalized and eventually had to be removed. He suggested instead that a gravel bar into the pond would serve the same purpose.  Heidi suggested that the goal be called hardscaping for the pond bottom.


There had been some discussion earlier in the meeting about a “Turtle Task Force” to research whether removing snapping turtles might bring better balance to the pond.  This was added as a possible goal.  Dave S. suggested that Jim Harding could come talk to the group about snapping turtles and their ecology.  Snapping turtles are not protected; there was some discussion about possibly relocating the turtles.  Dave S. mentioned that the large turtles are the breeding turtles and we would probably not want to remove all of those.


Heidi asked us to rank the ten goals – 7 old goals and three new ones (short term berm improvement, hardscaping the pond bottom, and the turtle task force) at this meeting. Heidi will bring the results to the next meeting.


New Business – Neal


Pfizer is building south of Plymoth Rd.  Although they plan to preserve many of the trees, Neal suggested that we might try to rescue some plants before they bulldoze them.


The Bill Stapp Nature Area on the north end of the Huron River Parkway, was dedicated earlier this fall.


The Huron River Watershed Council is planning a tree planting program to prevent erosion on Miller Creek.  Their meeting is the third Monday in October.


Submitted Oct. 12, 2004

Georgia White-Epperson