Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 (Approved)


In attendance:

Neal Foster, Mike Conboy, Tom Edsall, Colin Brooks, Bram Van Leer, Lia Van Leer, Bill Phillips, Brett Springgay


I did not have sufficient copies of the May 20th, 2009 minutes, and it was requested that they be circulated via e-mail for review (which both Neal & I did afterwards).  Tom requested that the minutes always be circulated via e-mail before meetings, which was agreed upon.


Next I gave the Treasurer’s part of my report.  I mentioned the $1,000 donation from Mary Jane Bolle and a $100 anonymous donation, both using our new “Friends of the Thurston Nature Center” form.  Neal said he would donate the $400 cost of the gator bags to the Thurston Nature Center restoration cause.  I reviewed the Treasurer’s part of the 5/20/09 minutes that said we had $371 of TNCC money available at the Thurston PTO account (this did not included the then-upcoming donation from Castlerock Entertainment).


Mike Conboy gave the Land Steward’s Report.  The oak savannah is thriving with 100% tree survival.  The trees have been watered weekly, and 95% of the transplated prairie plants survived.  For watering, about 10,180 gallons (14 ccf) were used over 10 weeks, for $52.92 of usage at $3.78 per ccf, using about 70 hours of volunteer time.  Areas around nine trees threatened by overgrowth were improved as part of the Adopt-a-Tree program.  The Thurston Nature Prairie survived the movie “Flipped” in an altered condition.  Most plant species should be represented next year, with another year to fully recover.  Nativescape provided the new plantings, and were paid for by Castlerock Entertainment.


Castlerock provided the $10,000 donation we requested for use of the Prairie.  In accordance with our letter sent to Castlerock, 1/3 is for the Thurston PTO ($3,333) and 2/3 is for Thurston Nature Center restoration ($6,667).  The check has been given to the PTO for deposit.


October 17th & 18th were set as our next Fall Work Days.  We hoped to have a good turnout of happy helpful volunteers again!


Bill Phillips described his continued discussions on restoring Thurston Pond through dredging. He has been discussing options with dredging companies.  If the pond can be dried out, removing the accumulated sediment would be much cheaper.  Michigan DEQ approval would be needed, but Bill has been talking with the DEQ and they are familiar with the pond.  We need to find out how the pond was designated by the DEQ when the Aqua-Swirlers were installed in the summer of 2009.  Using channel dirt to build up observation areas was discussed.


The possibility of pursuing a new grant with J.F. New was discussed.  The sense of the committee was to pursue a restoration grant in coordination with the Huron River Watershed Council (a 501(c)3).  Neal said he would contact Joan Martin at the watershed council to discuss collaboration.


A few more points on the oak savanna were talked about.  Reporting to the DNR Community Forestry Program is due by 9/30/09.  We talked about what it would take to put in prairie plants in the currently grassy areas.  Herbicides are not allowed per school system policy.  Doing a sample area (removing turf by hand or roto-tiller), or laying down large areas of plastic to kill the grass underneath were some ideas.


The OHMHA Fall Festival was coming up on October 11th, 2009, and we agreed to have our fundraising letter/form there.


The Thurston Nature Center is now Certified Wildlife Habitat under a National Wildlife Federation program.  Metal signs to put around the nature center have been ordered to show our new status.  We also talked about getting a sign for the oak savannah.


We discussed problems with over-zealous moving by landowners adjacent to the Orchard Hills Athletic Club outlot along the eastern edge of the pond, north of the OHAC pool.  We agreed that improving discussions with landowners would be helpful, including appropriate maintenance such as removing buckthorn, keeping some views, but leaving native plants.  Neal said he would pursue finding the last letter sent to landowners in 1993 and that he & Mike would reach out to neighboring landowners to join our discussion.  We suggested the need for a new land management plant and community involvement.


Neal talked about the water quality sampling plan of 4 days in September, 2009.  Nitrogen, phosphorous, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH were sampled, primarily by Neal. 


Brett Springgay reported on the new Thurston Elementary Parking Lot.  The sense of the committee was that keeping as much vegetated area as possible was desirable.  Asking the school system


Our last point of discussion was the condition of the berm that was raised over the summer by a J.F. New contractor.  The area along the berm is at risk of flooding and blow-out because of the remnants of the old water channel that had previously formed along the area.  Sandbags were placed to try and block off some of that flow.  J.F. New has said that an improved berm extension in place of the sandbags is coming.



  Submitted by Colin Brooks, TNCC Secretary-Treasurer,