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Thurston Nature Center News of August 6, 2014

Greetings - Thurston Nature Center Neighbors and Friends

At a time when we are trying to save our local public schools, and balance the need for development with the challenges of high density planning in the City of Ann Arbor, we certainly appreciate even more your commitment to help preserve, conserve, protect, and expand the Thurston Nature Center’s natural, cultural, and educational resources.

For almost 50 years your support of this “jewel” has benefited current as well as future generations. We want to continue to promote and foster family, community and student interactions and relationships as partnerships in the appreciation, education, enjoyment, and stewardship of the Nature Center.

Thank you once again for being a special “Friend of The Thurston Nature Center”

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New Chair of The Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC)

After three years of outstanding leadership, Colin Brooks recently decided to step down as chair of the TNCC. While we will certainly miss his governance we know that Colin, along with his wife Margaret, will continue to be dedicated and active contributors to the TNCC. Thank you Colin for all your hard work and guidance.

Frank Commiskey has been appointed as the new Chair


Thurston Pond & Wetland Restoration Project - Status

As many of you are aware we have been trying for many years to restore the health of the Thurston Pond ecosystem, which is the major aquatic feature of the Thurston Nature Center (TNC). While some in our community had lost hope, a few long term and committed volunteers have persevered and continued the effort required to restore the pond’s health in a manner which would be consistent with the founding goals and intended use of the TNC.

See below for a brief outline of the project’s goals along with a summation of the progress and anticipated stages and phases of the project.



·       The Thurston Nature Center Committee is pleased to report that the AAPS has issued a contract to Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. (ECT) for the “Detailed Engineering Stage” of the project. With the help of your donations and the wonderful support from the AAPS we are able to continue making progress.

·       We are planning to complete the engineering effort this year, and if we are able to raise the needed funds complete the construction work next summer. J


The William Stapp Amphitheatre

Many thanks to Scott Morton and  the Boy Scouts of America Troop1 for their magnificent work in repairing and renovating our Thurston Nature Center amphitheater. The scouts have a long history of helping to restore the Nature Center (i.e. most recently - North Prairie clearing and planting), and Scott’s execution of his Eagle Scout Service Project, without exception, reflects the continued excellence one can expect from their service. Scott and his troop deserves all the “kudos” in the world. Thanks again Scott.

The amphitheater will be dedicated as the William Stapp Amphitheatre on Sept.28th. Bill Stapp was instrumental in providing the leadership required to develop the Thurston Nature Center, which resulted in national recognition for him and the school district in 1967. The AAPS school district was one of only two in the nation to be represented at the National Youth Conference for Beauty and Conservation held at the White House and hosted by Ladybird Johnson. Thurston was featured in the premiere showing of "We’re on Our Way."


Thurston Elementary School and its Nature Center – GREEN-STEAM

STEAM education is an approach to teaching and learning that integrates the content and skills of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. It is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply these subjects in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise. At Thurston we will be “Greening” STEAM.

The environment is a compelling context for teaching STEAM as it provides teachers a diverse range of challenges that engage students in explorative (hands on) opportunities. The Thurston Nature Center will be the portal for GREEN-STEAM learning.

Stay tune for more information and activities, and give a holler if you want to get involved and participate in its implementation!


Collaboration with Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum - as we Label our Beautiful Trees

“Ann Arbor's "Tree Town" nickname stems from the dense forestation of its parks and residential areas.” Supporting  this conception, at the Thurston Nature Center the Conboy Family has been planting and rescuing our trees for approximately 50 years! Mike Conboy has planted at least one of each of the major Michigan Trees. There are now 68 “native” trees documented, identified (GPS coordinates), and featured in our Nature Center. With the donations and leadership of Emily Eisbruch, Mike and the community have already labeled 30 and plan to label the remaining trees by this coming fall. With the support from the Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum each tree label includes the common and scientific names as well as a brief fact about the type of tree (to help nature loves to identify that tree species elsewhere in the future).


Partnering with Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office

The County’s Rain Garden Assistance Program Staff is joining the Thurston School Students, and the Friends of the Thurston Nature Center in expanding the students Hummingbird Habitat (started by the 3rd graders during Earth Week this past spring). This cooperative and collaborative effort will enable the students to have two additional rain gardens which can support  butterfly and frog life cycle studies. Lesson plans are being developed to utilize the experience as part of our GREEN-STEAM initiative.


MARK YOUR CALENDAR – EVENT DATES (more information to follow)

* Aug. 27, 2014: Thurston – Having Fun at the “Welcome Back to School” Day –TNC tours, games and scavenger hunts

* Sept. 10th thru 12th, 2014 Thurston Vegetable Garden Fall Planting (Kindergarten & 1st Grade) sponsored by Green Things Farm

* Sept. 13th & 14th and 20th & 21st, 2014 : The Boy Scouts of America Troop 1, led by Anri Sorel, will be renovating the “Peninsula” trails leading into the South Peninsula (from Pond Circle Trail to the Peninsula Lookout ) at the Thurston Nature Center. Renovation will include extensive bushwhacking, subsequent widening of the trails, repaving trails using woodchips, and clearing of debris (including use of chainsaws).

* Sept. 27, 2014: Celebrate National Public Lands Day (the nation’s largest single-day volunteering effort for America’s public lands) at the TNC - sponsored by Toyota & combined with the Thurston Nature Center’s Community Fall Stewardship Workday

* Sept. 28, 2014: 50yr. Celebration and Party - the Orchard Hill Maplewood Homeowners Association (OHMHA) Fall Festival - this year being jointly supported by the Orchard Hills Athletic Club (OHAC), Thurston School-PTO, and the Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC). More information to follow.

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For more details you can always check the Thurston Nature Center website at and Thurston Nature Center on Facebook at

Thanks !



The Mission of our project is to “Restore the Ecological Integrity & Health of the Thurston Pond & Wetland Ecosystems at the Thurston Nature Center”

  •  Allow the TNC pond to be managed successfully, as a major aquatic open-water & wetland environment
  • Support a diverse and abundant community of desirable native plant & animal species
  • Provide the facilities and resources for the Ann Arbor Public Schools to implement GREEN-STEAM at Thurston Elementary School and continue the support of its AAPS District - Environmental Education program. This would allow the continued integration of what is taught in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics curriculums inside the classroom with experiential education in the out-of-doors.
  • Maintain the continuous use of the pond as part of the Ann Arbor City’s Stormwater Management and “Clean Water” Systems as well as its role as a headwater for Miller Creek

    The Goals: of the project are to

  •  Improve the water quality (removing legacy sentiment contaminated by very high levels of phosphorous)

  • Provide better water level management (provide control valves on the outlet drain of the pond)
  •  Increase water storage capacity in the pond (re-contouring the pond

The Status of the project

  •  The Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) as appointed by Thurston School and PTO has developed and published plans and concept designs, recommending the strategy required to meet the goals and objectives of this project (The Thurston Pond Restoration Plan)

  •  A preliminary project “work-flow” schedule/plan and budget has been established for both the engineering as well as the construction and restoration work.
  • Permits (MDEQ) enabling the start of the project have been secured
  • Contracts have been issued to start the “Detail Engineering” and the development of Construction Drawings.

    Project Stages and Phases

    •  Stage A: Concept Engineering Plan – (Thurston Pond Restoration Plan)

    •  Stage B: Permits – completed with MDEQ
    •  Stage C: Detail - Design Engineering (contract issued to ECT)
    •  Stage D: Construction ( Schedule to occur the summer of 2015)

o Phase 1 - Construction:

- Control outflow

- Build sediment bay

o Phase 2 - Construction:

Re-contouring pond Stage E: Restoration

o Phase A - Restoration
- Restoring plant habitats

o Phase B - Restoration
- Restoring wildlife habitats

Additional Information

o The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has approved recent requested plan modifications and adjustments– MDEQ permit expires January 24, 2016.

o The TNCC acting as a liaison/agent for the AAPS Physical Properties Department has select and AAPS has issued a contract to Environmental Consulting Technologies (ECT) for the Detail - Design Engineering stage of this project. The work is divided into three tasks

  •  Task 1: Topographical Survey and Base Map Update

  •  Task 2: Construction Drawings

  •  Task 3: Technical Specifications and Construction-Bidding Documents

  •  We anticipate completing Task1 within the next 1 to 2 weeks. This work is funded!

  •  We hope to start Task 2 of in about 2 weeks. This work is funded!

  •  Task 3 is will not start until the end of September and is currently

    not funded.

o Plans for Phase A and B of Stage E are starting to be discussed and developed


The TNCC is reaching out to the AAPS, Ann Arbor city, school parents, neighborhoods, and local community for financial direction and support.

There are two major components to this project which desperately require funding:

  •  There is an immediate need for $10K to complete Task 3 (Technical Specifications and Construction-Bidding Documents)

  • The construction costs at this time remain as “best estimates/ budgetary” and remain in the range of $150K to $250K. We anticipate getting improved and better construction cost estimates within the next 3 weeks.

    What You Can Do to Help

    We need your help more than ever to complete this project.

1. The fundraising campaign “Save the Pond” is “gathering steam and moving ahead”

******* Please Help Us Raise Funds********

There a 3 ways you can donate

  • Go to our Website ( and use our secure PayPal account

  • Make out a check to "Thurston Nature Center – PTO” and mail to Thurston Nature Center (Thurston PTO), 2647 Antietam Court, Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Contact [email protected] and/or call Frank at (734-369- 0992)

2. Stay in touch + Get involved + Pass the word on + Create awareness

  • Join our E-Newsletter -- to get on the newsletter list, email [email protected]

  •  Check out all our endorsements, sponsors, and the beautiful photos on our Facebook page (

  •  Get news and event information at our Website (