Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes

May 15, 2014

 

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 Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) Meeting Minutes – May 15, 2014
In attendance: In attendance were Frank Commiskey, Estelle Chiari-Fort, Anri Sorel, Eric Lindstrom, Ben Lindstrom, Bram Van Leer, Lea Van Leer, Jim Vallem, Colin Brooks, Mary Manthey, Neal Foster, and Mike Conboy.

            Minutes from the April 3rd, 2014 meeting were approved. Frank & I reported on recent email conversations with Mike Maroney and Tim Grusczcynski from AAPS. The berm had not yet been fixed on 5/15 despite an email from M.Maroney on 4/17 indicating things would be moving forward. Frank said that with all AAPS expenses being closely reviewed, and new school budgets being prepared, spending on maintaining properties was being limited for the time being. I did say that the blown out berm state was unsafe, and it was agreed I would send an email to Mike & Tim expressing my concern on the safety of this route to school.
            Next we talked about the pond restoration project. At the previous meeting, TNCC had recommended moving forward with ECT Consulting on Commonwealth Blvd. They had reviewed our pond restoration plan and developed a more detailed quote. Next we are trying to get detailed drawing for construction bids. We expect these engineering plans to cost around $20k to $25k. Frank is trying to get the old JF New AutoCAD data with elevations, with Tim G. at AAPS is supposed to have from the old pond restoration plan. Principal York has been in contact with Tim and previous Grounds Director Randy Trent to try ad locate these (Scott Dierks of JF New does not have them because a sub-contractor did that work). At the previous meeting, we had unanimously voted to allocate $5,000 of our present TNCC funds to support the cost of the engineering plans. Frank is focusing on fundraising for $10k to $15k over the next month. We don't know the status of the $20k in AAPS funding we had thought could be available for this. Frank was to talk with Liz Margolis later in May about this. In 3 months, we're hoping to have construction specifications set so that AAPS can issue a public request for bids (by 9/1 at best). The idea is still to get working on the outlet & sediment bay first (possibly Fall 2014) with recontouring next year.
            Next, Troop 1 Life Scout Anri Sorel presented on his Eagle Scout project idea to fix repair the auxiliary berm so that it provided some main berm protection again, as the previous one had been doing. There was significant concern on the part of the TNCC that this could easily lead to an auxiliary berm that was too high, causing another part of the berm to wash out, and that precise elevations should be know and recommended for any auxiliary berm work. Anri later chose to focus on peninsula trail maintenace for his Eagle Scout project (although this has not yet been formally resubmited).
            Ben Lindstrom, another Troop 1 Life Scout developing an Eagle Scout project, presented on putting a stronger, longer-term fence to protect the oak savanna, to replace the existing temporary fence. He also expressed interest in replacing the old broken-down bird boxes that can be seen around Thurston Pond, but TNCC recommended against that because they had not seen much previous desirable usage in years past. TNCC was interested in the new, more durable rope fence (as TNCC chairperson, I later endorsed that as his Eagle Scout project).
            Frank described another potential Eagle Scout project – improving the Bill Stapp ampitheatre area. Replacing the old bench boards, cleaning the area up, putting in some native plants, and making it more usable for students. I suggested this to another Troop 1 scout, Scott Morton, who has enthusiastically adopted this as his Eagle Scout project.
            The idea of further improving the old backstop area was also discussed, to go with the native honeysuckle that was recently planted. The wettest area near it could have a rain garden with butterfly habitat planted there. In a later email, Tom Edsall also recommended a series of docks that could be put at various places around Thurston Pond, to provide better access and viewing, starting with the ampitheatre area.
            Lea shared a handout that showed that sometimes it could be undesirable to have too many leaves in a pond. New trees at TNCC have generally not been planted close to the pond.
            We also talked about our relationship to the OHAC pool and the OHMHA neighborhood association. Frank has represented TNCC at recent meetings of these groups to better update them on our activities. All these groups, and the school, have been active in the area for 50 years, since the neigborhood started being built in 1964, and there has been lots of good recent crosstalk.
            Frank talked about fundraising activities for a while. He has been knocking on doors, sharing information on the Thurston Nature Center,  and asking for donations. We have received two donations via the Paypal link on our webpage. We got $105 from the recent Orange Leaf frozen yogurt special setaside for TNCC. We are still trying to get $20k from AAPS. City stormwater money is a possibility. We have $8200 in our account currently, and Frank had received about $1,000 in donations from his recent door-knocking.
            Jim said that Sarah Toner was interested in leading some bird walks around the pond. Mike Conboy gave his Land Steward report, talking about the wonderful April workdays we'd had (with greater participation than normal), prairie expansion, lots of interesting spring flowers, more nesting birds (except for waterfowl), Frank's work with Thurston students, and upcoming work on buckthorn control. New signs for 40 trees as on their way.
            We postponed discussing the planting policy, phragmites control, and oak savanna planning to a future meeting.

Respectfully submitted, Colin Brooks, TNCC Chairperson / Acting Secretary, cnbrooks@mtu.edu