Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes – April 4, 2014

In attendance: In attendance were Mike Conboy, Barry Johnson, Frank Commiskey, Emily Eisbruch, Mary Manthey, Tori Melindez, and the three EMU interns (Lucy, Daniel, and Kevin)

The minutes from the February 6, 2014 meeting were approved. The 3 interns from EMU interested in working with us on pond restoration introduced themselves – Lucy, Daniel, and Kevin. They said they were interested in helping to capture the thoughts and feelings of TNCC members, including where we have been and where we want to go, helping to articulate a final goal. Later they said they would like to read the specifics about our nature center that are already out there. Helping with a vision for what deep water species and other pond life such as muskrats is another area of interest. They are also interested in helping write up phases 3 and 4 of the pond restoration project, and bringing in guest speakers from other restoration projects who can share lessons learned.

Barry gave a pond restoration planning update. He said the MDEQ permit modification ad been approved. This included expanding the inlet area where the pond enters the storm drain, having a sedimentation basin, excavating sediment (and placing it in 3 different areas), and installing a new pipe from the drain to help with pond lowering for maintenance of a deeper pond. A deeper pond would be better for pond wildlife, with more unfrozen areas, more oxygen, and fewer algae problems.

Tim Gruszczynski (AAPS Physical Properties Director) and Ms. York (Thurston Principal) had been met with. Tim said he would help with getting work moving forward, including selecting a consultant, especially now that the permit mod had been approved. A review of sediment data by Helena Nelson, MDEQ, is still needed. We need a city permit next since this is Ann Arbor storm water, with inputs via the Clague and Antietam swirl concentrators. Tim will help with providing the RFP, and is amenable to helping with some funding of the restoration efforts.

Frank gave the Treasurer's report. We had about an $8500 balance with $765 approved to cover burn costs, leaving us with about $7700. A discussion was started on using a majority of the remaining funding towards hiring an engineering company to create an engineering plan for the next phase of restoration. A motion was put forward by Frank, with a second, saying “We propose to spend up to $5000 of our $7700 to start the process of hiring an engineering company to create an engineering plan RFP.” Further discussion iincluding noting that AAPS may be willing to contribute up to $20,000 to get a complete engineering plan. A letter to engineering firms would include any changes in costs and what we want done. We would like to get the RFP out as soon as possible now that we have the approved modified MDEQ permit. We discussed a maximum $30k cost for the RFP. Tim could provide technical support. ECT and Midwest Consulting may be interested in bids based on their initial interest. The motion was approved by a 12-0 vote (including the 3 EMU interns).

Next I gave an update on Phragmites control. After the recent burn efforts, we now think we can do it ourselves rather than having to pay someone (we had thought that the Phrag would burn too vigorously for our volunteer group, but that wasn't the case with a late winter / early spring burn). The burn wasn't as vigorous as we'd hoped, but after knocking down some areas ourselves, we got a better burn when J.Vallem, Frank, and I returned to burn some additional areas.

Mike and J.Vallem got the burn permit, which includes the Prairie area and is good for a year. The prairie burn was upcoming. Burning the Thurston rain garden was discussed too. We discussed borrowing burn equipment from the Natural Areas Program or Green Things Farm. We would need the right weather (which we did get on April 6th!). Mike Tucker was hoping to help.

Mike Conboy gave the Land Steward report. The Thurston Prairie burn was planned for 4/6/14. A hose was available from a neighbor's house. Mike Tucker has been working with Thurston 3rd graders on building six Blue Bird houses as part of a Bird Club & installing them in the Oak Savanna. The kids will be checking them regularly. 40 more tree signs are ready thanks to Emily Eisbruch, with common & scientific names. Spring work days are planned for April 26 (10am – 3pm) & April 27 (1-4 pm). Tom is planning on more wren houses. The Green School club has money for labels.

Two Eagle Scout potential projects are being planned. Ben Lindstrom is interested in putting a more permanent fence around the Oak Savanna and building bird boxes to replace some of the old broken ones. Anri Sorel is interested in strengthening the 'auxilliary' small 'berm' that Mike & company built up but has been washing out, as well as providing trail improvements for the Point (peninsula) Trail.

We discussed Thurston parent Praveena Ramaswami's interest in helping out with fundraising & outreach. She is now helping with the Facebook page, Thurston (Elementary) Happenings, and the website, including adding a Paypal button to take online donations, with us still part of the PTO. Thanking PTO President Mary Manthey, Ms. York, and the teachers and staff for their interest in the Thurston Nature Center was included in this discussion.

We talked about helping Thurston Elementary with celebrating Earh Day (Earth Week) April 21-25, including the Spring Work Days on the 26th & 27th. There is a planned activity on each day, as part of the science curriculum. K & 1st graders are making mud pies. 2Nd graders are releasing ladybugs. 3Rd graders are working on a hummingbird garden in the old backstop area, including some willows along the path near the backstop. 4Th & 5th graders are doing Adopt-a-trail work again. Thank you Frank & Mike for organizing this. Working with Clague is planned next. We need more outreach to residents. Flyers on doorsteps could be helpful, inviting neighbors and politicians. An Ann Arbor Observer article may be helpful. Other activities for the Work Days could include Thurston choirs singing, the Clague choir, a tent, a potluck, or restaurant donations.

Finally, Frank said he would contact Tim Gruszczynski about berm repair, more wood chips, stakes, protective plastic mesh fencing for 30 school trees. He also mentioned a planned collaboration with Green Things Farm on farm shares to benefit the nature center.

.Respectfully submitted, Colin Brooks, TNCC Chairperson / Acting Secretary,