Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes June 13, 2013


In attendance: Jim Vallem, Emily Eisbruch, Bill Phillips, Colin Brooks, Mike Conboy, Tom Edsall, Bram Van Leer, Lia Van Leer, Avi Eisbruch, Barry Johnson, and Rebecca (a friend of the family)

The minutes from the April 4th, 2013 meeting were approved.

Mike Conboy gave the Land Steward's report. There has been a focus on removing buckthorn, with lots of progress. There are lots of places around the Thurston Nature Center where you can see the black roots of buckthorn sticking up in the air! Clearing the ground of the climax oak hickory forest is almost done. Two tours were held, including Thurston School kids. They found 60% of the items on their list and kids said it was the “best tour of the year.” Madeline led a flower tour with Emily's help. The Tree Pals program has been kicked off, and there is now info including new photos on the website ( ). About 12 people came to a Tree Pals tour and 7 people became Tree Pals. Clearing of brush left over from David Vallem's Eagle Scout project near Prairie Court was planned for June 29th. A chipper was planned to be there. The TNCC agreed that some piled up brush should be left as it's good habitat for birds. A “Bird Habitat” sign was suggested. Jim Vallem said that signs would be put in to help mark the area as an Eagle Scout project.

Tom Edsall gave the Water Steward's report. We discussed the need to improve the beehive grate outlet area. The pond is full and close to the top of the berm. The ditch leading to the outlet needs maintenance to help with the flow. There is vegetation in the channel and fallen trees in the area. At that point, we'd had 5” of rain in 3 days (note: the berm eroded away for a significant part of its backside shortly after this meeting). This has been a wet year, and if weather is going to be more variable and extreme, the berm should be designed for that. The current emergency outflow is about 1 foot too high and is 9” above the berm. We need to go down, not up, with the pond – the berm is as high as it can go without flooding neighbors, so dredging is the way to increase the water-holding capacity.

Next we spent time discussing the updates to the Thurston Pond Restoration Plan that we are trying to complete. With the Antietam Court connection, 38 acres of additional area were added to the Thurston Pond drainage; footing drains may be adding more water as well. We need a new grate, which Tom and Frank showed a photo of a new proposed outlet that would be a stop-log structure to more easily and raise pond water levels. This would be a longer-term solution than what we have now. We also discussed our interest in getting the pond back to a clear water system. Any soil removal would hopefully end up on site as much as possible. The sediment is high in Phosphorous. We need an engineering estimate for regrading the pond bottom and constructing the new outlet. We agreed that working on the outlet first could be a good first phase of a restoration project. We may need to increase the storm capacity first and the storage capacity second. Frank & Colin discussed their phone conversation with Harry Sheehan, Washtenaw County Drain Commissioner. Our main summary was that this was not his turf and we should talk with the Millers Creek Action Team (MCAT). Frank went to an MCAT meeting, but attendance was low and we are not currently a priority for MCAT. We talked some more about needing to get costs defined for our pond regrading and new outlet plans. Frank will take our revised restoration plan to engineering firms and try to get ideas of what it would take to get a proper cost estimate that would give us a firm fundraising target.

Bram and Lia discussed their interest in improving the pond view so that people could enjoy the pond. There was interest in making sure people could see the pond, otherwise it's hard for them to enjoy it. They also reminded us that local volunteers improved the berm in the 1990s and could help again.

I discussed the invasive Phragmites reed control project that we've been talking about. After some discussion, the TNCC attendees voted 12-0 to move forward with the Phragmites control project, working with David Mindell with a first year cost of $650 and a second year cost of about $500.

Emily talked about the new tree labels, with the first 30 costing about $210 from Midwest Graphics. The Vallems offered to check out costs using MakerWorks. Frank discussed the new outreach email list. We have an updated website as well. There will be a TNCC email list and the wider outreach list with about 700 email addresses in it.

Respectfully submitted,

Colin Brooks, TNCC Chairperson, [email protected]