Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes

December 20th, 2012 in the Thurston Elementary Library

In attendance: Emily Eisbruch, Avi Eisbruch, Beth Caldwell, Colin Brooks, Bram Van Leer, Lia Van Leer, Barry Johson, & Frank Commiskey.

The minutes from the previous meeting on October 18h, 2012 were approved.

Frank Commiskey gave the Land Steward's report on behalf of Mike Conboy. Mike & Frank have been using the Extractgator to clear a lot of buckthorn & honeysuckle near the Bluett border. It is very good at removing plants down to the roots. It lives normally at 3022 Bluett. The Huron River Watershed Council also has one to borrow. The cost of one is $155 (see ). It also helps avoid cutting with lots of vigorous sprouts. We are hoping to have more wildflowers in these pulled areas with more sun. Avi said he'd be happy to help.

Next I handed out the current version of the “Restoration of the Thurston Pond Ecosystem” plan, last revised in 2005, that a colleage of mine had compiled into a single document using the web page content at I said I would write a new section on the need to control the invasive Phragmites reed that has been taking over the edges of Thurston Pond in recent years. The Van Leers both said they don't want Phragmites blocking their view. Committee members agreed that dredging is still needed. We discussed the dredging work that recently took place at the Leslie Golf Course. Frank asked how much it had cost – it could be equivalent to what we need. Frank has been talking with George Beale who owns a construction company. Quantifying the approximate volume and cost would be very helpful. We may be looking at a $200k cost as a rough-order-of-magnitude cost (previously we had estimated a $100k cost). We should try to work with the business community on fundraising.

There was a discussion on turtles at Thurston Pond. The focus of the discussion was on snapping turtles and whether we should be protecting them or doing more to deal with their potential impacts on other wildlife at the pond. Snapping turtles seemed to get a generally favorable view as members of the local ecosystem from most meeting attendees.

Frank said we should work with U-M students to help promote the Nature Center, recalling the 1997 U-M SNRE Master's Thesis report about the Thurston Nature Center, which I loaned to Frank after the meeting (I have the copy from the Thurston Library that the school secretary loaned to me). Eventually, I suggested that Mike & Tom have a first go at revising the Restoration Plan and circulate it with the rest of the group (note: I did get edits from Tom on 1/2/2013). Frank said he would discuss options & ideas with different construction firms, and with SNRE professors to gauge interest. I said I would reprint the “Friends of the Thurston Nature Center” donation form that Neal Foster had created in 2009.

Next we had a discussion of whether we should be our own organization, potentially a 501(c)3. Currently we are a formally a committee of the Thurston PTO, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit. No decision was made on this. Other discussion followed. We had a good connection to Thurston Elementary and like that it gets used for outdoor education of local kids. Any future plans for the pond & Nature Center should keep in mind that the Orchard Hills Athletic Club owns about 1/5 of the Nature Center (the rest is owned by Ann Arbor Public Schools). We should talk with the County Drain Commission about getting the pond designated as part of the county drain system. It was mentioned that there are about 200 houses near the pond and about 700 in the neighborhood – we should reach out to them more for help & fundraising in a neighborhood fundraising campaign.

Respectfully submitted,

Colin Brooks, TNCC Chairperson,