Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes

May 12, 2011 at the Thurston Elementary library

In attendance:

Beth Caldwell, Tom Edsall, Barry Johnson, Mike Conboy, Colin Brooks, Ray Batra

The minutes from the April 11th, 2011 meeting that Neal Foster, Mike Conboy, and Colin Brooks attended were ready and approved.

Mike Conboy gave his May 2011 Land Steward's Report. One each of the 5 “missing” species were planted on the Georgetown side of pond, which were: red maple, white birch, mountain ash, flowering dogwood, and sassafras. This was completed within the $200 budget approved for this. Paw paw still needs planting. Chips are still not available so we have not yet scheduled our traditional Spring work days. The prairie is recovering nicely from the movie set impacts, and the recent burn helped reduce invasive woody plants and briars.

Ray Batra presented his Troop 8 Eagle Scout project to us. His proposed improvements at this point included repainting the Thurston Nature Prairie sign, repainting the old sign near Antietam Dr at the north end of the pond, repairing or replacing one of the old existing bridges, putting in a mini-bridge over the pond drainage canal, and/or putting in picnic table at the north end of the pond near the new Antietam drain input. After some discussion, the Committee endorsed sign repairs (especially the old Conservation Education Reserve sign and the pond map sign near Antietam Drive), a sign for the relatively new Oak Savanna, and putting in a new picnic table at the north side of the pond. We asked for a cost estimate from Ray before agreeing to any helping with project costs, which Ray said he would e-mail to us. The Committee agreed that it could vote on this electronically between meetings so that Ray would know if we would approve this in time for him to get Eagle Scout Board of Review approval, which was likely to be before our next TNCC meeting.

Also, Neal shared that another potential Eagle Scout, David Vallem, is interested in doing his Eagle project at the Thurston Nature Center and that he would like to present to us at our next meeting if possible.

Next we discussed fundraising. Tom led off the discussion by saying that we have been trying to raise funds, but this has been a lot of work through the grant writing process and it is likely that we will continue to be frustrated. During the oak savanna tree planting in 2009, local resident Frank Commiskey volunteered to help with fundraising. Barry said he would contact Frank. Harry Sheehan of the Washtenaw County Resource Commission was also mentioned as a resource to help with fundraising. Cheryl Elliott at the Ann Arbor Community Foundation was also mentioned as a good resource. The consensus appeared to be that if we are trying to raise $100,000 to dredge the pond then these could at least be sources of advice for us. The idea that there are 10-15 foundations that fund southeast Michigan environmental projects was also mentioned. Also mentioned was that perhaps we can work with more than one of these two get two smaller grants in the $50k range rather than one larger grant. I said that we should still consider grants if good opportunities arise.

I shared the results of my brief May 12th phone call with Scott Dierks of Cardno JFNew. Scott said that the work permit had been finalized, the sub-contractor would be the same as before (Michigan Hardscapes), that work should being “sometime soon – next week or two”, and that the time to complete should be about two weeks after dewatering. As far as we knew, the work was approved by DNRE as written in the AAPS / JFNew permit application of 10/18/2010 without reflecting our formal input to the permit request.

I mentioned that the Thurston Nature Center e-mail list was now up & running, using the most recent lists of e-mails that our meeting announcements had been sent to in recent months as the basis for the list. I'm using Google Groups to do this for free.

Near the end of the meeting Mike Conboy said that 3 sassafras and a spicebush had been bought and planted and wanted to know if the additional $59 cost of this could be covered by the approved $200 expense for new tree plantings. The previously spent $154 plus this additional $59 cost came to $213 and it was decided that we could cover the $13 in additional cost.

Finally, it was agreed that we would invite a representative of Cardno JFNew, most likely to be Scott Dierks, to present at our next meeting, which was set for Thursday, June 30th, at my house (since Thurston Elementary would be closed by then). Note: I did follow up on this but did not receive a direct response. When I later followed up on just pond work status, I got a response from Scott on June 28th to my e-mail of June 25th that said “Dan is supposed to have started drawing down the water level with actual construction to probably start next week.”

Respectfully submitted,

Colin Brooks, TNCC Chairperson, (v.2011.6.30)