Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes

November 10th, 2011 in the Thurston Elementary Teacher's Lounger

In attendance:

Barry Johnson, Neal Foster, Colin Brooks, Beth Caldwell, Mike Conboy, Colin Brooks, Bill Phillips, Georgia White Epperson, Jim Vallem, and David Vallem

The minutes from the June 20th, 2011 meeting were read and approved with an added note that the sassafras tree had died.

David Vallem described his almost completed Eagle Scout project, which consisted of improving an area on the western edge of the Thurston Nature Center to remove invasive plants, plant trees, and put in some new trails. He started it in August 2011 and was finishing up planting in November. He cleared out weeds from the seeding areas and was getting ready to plant $500 of native grasses and flowers the following weekend. On his most recent Saturday session, he and his Scout volunteers had planted 14 more trees and had planted three dozen new native trees total. He shared the planting map with us. He'd had 70 people help him so far. There are no further plans for the 3 three big brush piles left after clearing out the area – they will be left to break down & be bird habitat, although he had pulled down & stretched out one earlier big one. He was focusing on planting shade-tolerant grass & flowers. Mike Conboy suggested mixing them in with some topsoil when seeding the area. We suggested that TNCC should tell the Thurston Green Schools program about the project. He obtained his native species from Prairie Moon. He raised over $2,000 for the project (not requesting any from TNCC), in part by placing over 300 flyers at neighboring houses. TNCC suggested reaching out to the Ann Arbor Chronicle and the Observer about the project because they might be interested in writing it up.

Next Mike Conboy gave the Land Steward's report. He said it had been an ambitious year for tree planting. Paw-paw, mountain ash, sassafras, red maple, white birch, flowering dogwood, and jack pine were added. TNCC now has 63 of the 76 species listed on the “Michigan trees worth knowing” list (David Vallem was planting a striped maple). Ray Batra's Eagle Scout project had been completed, David Vallem's project was nearly done, and John Behrendt was considering doing this Eagle Scout project at the Thurston Nature Center. Mike noted that all 3 families are Thurston tree adopters. All sassafras were replaced and are now thriving. At the northeast corner of the Thurston Praire, these is almost nothing there with some dead ash trees – that would be a good place to expand the prairie.

Bill Phillips commented that we should do an oak savannah prairie plants project. Roto-tilling the area first was recommended. Mike endorsed this a good potential upcoming project.

Mike commented that there have been no wood chips available from the city recently. He said he would try again in the spring and work with the local Natural Areas program.

Barry recommended that we put together a 2011 Thurston Nature Center report to let teachers, the PTO, and everyone else know what has been going on around the TNC this past year. We could append the minutes together, put in some aerial photos, mention the Eagle Scout projects, and put this all together so we could print & distribute it. Neal & Barry volunteered to put together an outline for everyone on the TNCC to help with.

I gave the Treasurer's report and noted that we currently had $8560.75 in our account that we have under the auspices of the PTO.

We next talked about Vicki Botek's e-mail about the parts of the path being flooded. We said that if we could get fresh wood chips this would help a lot. However, I noted that our long-term objecctive to get more water in the pond had finally been met now that the berm had been repaired, and this was a very good thing.

Neal said he had seen more rooted aquatic vegetation in the pond, including Microphillium and Ludwigia. He saw many healthy dragon fly nymphs. He thinks that more flow-through action in the pond with the added north drainage area from Antietam could be helping. A bluegill was reported and bullheads are still being seen. This is all quite encouraging. He noted that the school owns the water quality sampling equipment including a Secchi disk.

We then discussed what should be our next big project. The group agreed that controlling the spreading invasive Phragmites was a good next project. Colin noted that controlling Phragmites really requires spraying it, an issue he has been investigating at work. A licensed applicator would be needed, if we could get the school system's permission for this project. We agreed that we could help inform people on effective Phragmites control. Being careful to collect seeds rather than spread them would help when cutting back the biomass. In Wisconsin, projects have included kids helping to bunch up the Phragmites before it is cut. Funding is available for Phragmites control.

To close the meeting, Colin again noted that as he was now the Chairperson, TNCC really needed a new Secretary-Treasurer because he was still doing those roles, including updating the website at

Respectfully submitted,

Colin Brooks, TNCC Chairperson, (v.2012.02.04)