A Student Returns to Serve

Blandford is very fortunate to have loyal volunteer support from area organizations. One of our cherished partners includes Farmers Insurance. It has become tradition that when a new Customer Service Associate training is complete, the group has a day of bonding and service at Blandford. Volunteer Coordinator, Jessie Schulte shared, “We are always extremely impressed with the enthusiasm the group brings. These are the best costumer service  employees and we see that in their positive, can do attitude.”

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Maintenance Manager Martin Ferrone often comments that, “They are one of the hardest working groups we have had out to serve at Blandford.” We cannot thank them enough for returning month after month to move fence, mulch trails, prep pioneer buildings for special events and eagerly jump into any assignment.

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On their last service day, March 11th, we discovered that one of the Farmer Insurance heros of the day, Shineene Houston, was a former Blandford Environmental Education Program student. And another, Nickolas James, was a Sugarbush festival musician. It was fun to reminisce and be reminded of the rich connections our volunteers have with Blandford Nature Center.

Earn Rewards by Serving at Blandford

Next week is invasive species awareness week and Blandford will have eco-stewards continue to cut and treat invasive species preparing for spring habitat protection, reducing the amount of invasive chemicals flowing into vernal pools. Stewards are motivated to help because they care about the projects and lands at Blandford. But there is another special bonus volunteers can gain by helping this winter. You could earn points redeemable for all sorts of fun rewards by volunteering at Blandford.
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Writer Heidi Stukkie shared “[What] began almost two years ago as an online program where people could earn rewards for recycling has now entered phase two. The City of Grand Rapids’ MyGRcitypoints.com website has recently added two new two features that let people earn points and get involved in their communities.
The first new feature encourages people to volunteer with the incentive to earn rewards for their actions. The way it works is residents sign up for an account on the site and then volunteer for one of the featured opportunities. Afterward, they earn points that can later be redeemed for discounts on restaurants, services, and retail purchases.

gr pointsPhase one of the MyGRcitypoints program was developed to encourage recycling in the City limits. There are now around 10,000 users and the program has increased recycling by 80 percent. This new second phase is open to anyone in West Michigan, and not just City residents.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the key with phase two of MyGRcitypoints is not so much about earning points, but instead about “keeping local dollars local and building communities.” He believes these two actions are important for our city’s future.

“But we are one of the first communities to do this and that sets Grand Rapids apart from other cities,” he says. “It’s kind of a radical idea.”

The City is open to suggestions for the site and ideas for future campaigns that will motivate people to get involved in the community.”All we’ve done is build the platform,” says Sundstrom. “Others can now help figure out what to do with it.”

If you’d like to earn rewards for your volunteer or recycling efforts, or participate in the special Park Makeover campaign, here’s how to get involved:

  Visit MyGRcitypoints online to find out more.
–    Sign up to start earning points.
–    Volunteer to earn points.
–    Like MyGRcitypoints on Facebook.
–    Follow @myGRcitypoints on Twitter.
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Pictured above is volunteer Tom Riddle helping remove invasive plants along a fence row on the edge of Brandywine creek in January 2016. Now, Tom and others can earn rewards for helping protect nature. MyGRcitypoints wants “everyone to take part in transforming the community into a better place to live, work, play, eat, and shop. Throw a few cans in that new recycling cart, plant a tree, or spread some woodchips; then watch your points and local businesses grow as we all work together to create a vibrant, sustainable community.”

Science Community Day

My internship at Blandford has allowed me to meet so manlaureny wonderful people! More recently I have met  Blandford’s person of the month- Professor Lauren Elliott. She knows that invasive plants are the second greatest threat to our natural communities next to ​habitat loss from development. She is taking action to engage her students in service learning at Blandford. She has helped host and participate in three work days at Blandford and has made a significant positive contribution to Blandford’s long term land management goals. How can you get involved? Go visit and suppport the Science Day at Grand Rapids Community College this Saturday 10-2pm or pledge to remove Buckthorn from your yard.
Learn how to guard and defend against alien invaders! Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about invasive species in Michigan, what impact they have on the environment and what you can do to help! There will also be stickers and pencils too!  The kids will have make “Wanted” Posters. They can join the GRCC GUARDIAN GANG and learn how to guard the environment from these alien invaders!
A Blandford Nature Center representative, lead eco-steward Heather Bell and the West Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area Coordinator, Drew Rayner, will be on site to answer any questions. You can also learn about Blandford Nature Center  and all it has to offer the community!
This Blog post was contributed by Brooke Mellema, Blandford’s Land Stewardship Intern.
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Stewardship Challange

The Stewardship Network of the Great Lakes has created a challenge for us this October! Every year through the Garlic Mustard Challenge, thousands of people come together to dedicate tens of thousands of hours to invasive species management. The October Volunteer Challenge will bookend the spring Garlic Mustard Challenge, and will be a way of showing collective impact, showcasing the many facets of stewardship, and telling the stories of stewards working in public parks and on private properties. This challenge is about the volunteer hours towards removal of invasive species, not a specific species. The goal is a total of 1,000 hours of collective volunteer hours. 

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HOW CAN YOU HELP
Blandford Nature Center holds many opportunities for eco-stewardship volunteer hours throughout the year. This October we are holding two opportunities to remove invasive species and contribute to helping the biodiversity of Blandford’s beautiful 143 acres. These eco-stewardship days are free to everyone. Afraid you won’t be able to identify the invasive species? No worries! We start with a lesson on invasive non-native plants and tree identification. Then we head out into the forest to practice our identification skills with a fabulous guide to help you with identification. Finally, we’ll cut and treat those unwanted invaders improving habitat for native species. If you plan on coming please come prepared to work off the trail. Wear layers of warm clothes and sturdy shoes that will more than likely get dirty. These opportunities are open to the public so walks-ins are welcome. Application not required for group work days. Bring a friend! Together we can help contribute to the 1,000 hour goal for the Stewardship Network challenge! (dates and times: http://blandfordnaturecenter.org/community-programs-calendar/)
This Stewardship Blog Post was contributed by Brooke Mellema, Blandford Nature Center Land Stewardship Intern.

Sights and Sounds of the Meadow

Thanks to ongoing restoration work, visitors to Blandford Nature Center can enjoy the sights and sounds of a wet meadow community. “When you walk into a meadow it’s so full of life; it’s just teeming. It’s noisy with the buzz of the pollinators, the chirping of the crickets, the flutter of the birds and the butterflies. It’s really alive. It’s much more than a field that needs to be mowed. It’s full of life.” Peggy Bowers, Horticulturistaquatic  invasives

The biodiversity of this area can increase. One day we hope it will represent a healthy wetland complex filled with native plants. What now has become a wet meadow once had an extensive drainage system put in place in order to create farmland. The 10 acres was a corn field for a long time. In recent years, through the Bert Hewett Memorial Fund and Fish and Wildlife Service’s  removal of the drain tiles, it has been turned back into valuable wetland habitat. Management and stewardship continue to help preserve this landscape as a valuable historic reference point, illustrating the native community which was once visible throughout the Grand Rapids region.

This summer volunteers, Niko Schroeder and Lauryn Taylor, are working to protect the plant community by cutting and treating invasive glossy buckthorn​ growing among the sedges in the wet meadow. If the glossy buckthorn is left untreated, it will put the life of the meadow frogs at risk.

One frog tleopard froghat lives in the meadow makes the sound of a low gutteral snore-like rattle, which has been compared to a small motor boat engine. These snores are accompanied by a number of different chuckles and croaks.  Summer volunteer, Jacob Phillips, from Green Mountain College, will be doing a herpetology survey to monitor the Northern Leopard frog as well as other amphibians and reptiles.  The surveys will provide valuable information that will add to our understanding of species conservation. The results of the surveys will assist Blandford’s land management efforts in making decisions that will maximize the chances of continued success for the native species. The data he finds will be added to the Michigan Herp atlas. http://www.miherpatlas.org/

Blandford’s donors and members play an important role in supporting the ongoing efforts to preserve and improve this beautiful bio-diverse landscape. You too can get involved in the stewardship efforts.  Come out and join in on one of the monthly Ecostewardship workdays. If you would like to volunteer or be involved at Blandford Nature Center please call (616) 735-6240 or visit http://blandfordnaturecenter.org/get-involved/.

While you are at it, we welcome you to become a member and help help support these important efforts.

Global Youth Service Day

MI—Global Youth Service Day, along with the support of Youth Service America, Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Michigan Community Service Commission, has awarded Blandford Nature Center a grant of $500 for the upcoming “Protecting Forest Floodplains and Neighboring Waterways” restoration work day on Friday, April 24th. This work day will bring many area organizations and three Grand Rapids Schools together as they work towards a common goal: keeping Blandford Nature Center’s ravine habitat healthy and beautiful.

High school students from Grand River Preparatory School , 8th graders from CA Frost Environmental Science Academy and 6th graders from Blandford Environmental Education Program (BEEP) will partner together in four teams so that every student has a chance to become an Eco-Steward.  Guided by Blandford volunteers and staff, student teams will work along the banks and floodplain of Brandywine Creek with each team going through four, 30-minute work and learning sessions.stream clean-up

Session 1—Creature Comforts: Blandford trail guide volunteers and interns will lead students to high-quality ravine habitat where they may see turtles, frogs, snakes, and birds. Here, guides will share how erosion control and rock placement can protect wildlife habitat. Working with their partners, students will transfer small boulders and rocks in place to stabilize the shore and learn how erosion plays a part in smothering out macro-invertebrate

Session 2—Cut the Mustard!: Students will learn how invasive plants can destroy Michigan’s habitats by limiting animals’ access to clean water, food sources and nesting sites. Next, they will learn to identify three common invasive non-native plants found here in Michigan: garlic mustard, dame’s rocket and creeping jenny. Then, each team will pull and collect these invasive plants in biodegradable garbage bags for later disposal.

Session 3—Stream Makeover: A stream is only as healthy as the land around it. With their partner, students will look for evidence of frogs, snakes, salamanders, newts and turtles along the creek banks. They will learn what makes a good habitat and make this habitat even better by carefully removing man-made debris and learn why fallen limbs and dried leaves should be left in place. Debris will be hauled in wheelbarrows to our dumpster and sorted for recycling.February

Session 4—Buffers for Dragonflies and Other Wildlife: Students will learn the importance of natural “buffer zones”—plants that grow near lakes and streams that filter run-off water and catch silt. They will learn how replacing invasive species with native species can result in not only cleaner streams but better habitats for reptiles, amphibians, birds and other animals.

Each team will put this knowledge to use as they plant native fruit bearing shrubs. These shrubs will be marked with the group’s name and date.

Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world and the only one dedicated to the contributions that children and youth make 365 days of the year. “There are a million lessons to be learned in restoration work,” said Jessie Schulte, Land Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator at Blandford Nature Center. “We are proud to have Grand Rapid Public School students protecting our most precious natural resources”. Having children directly immersed in nature and practicing stewardship to keep their community’s naturescapes healthy is part of Blandford Nature Center’s mission.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the nature center is dependent on generous donations and passionate volunteers to meet its mission of educating, engaging and empowering our community to become stewards of the natural world that sustains us. Many community partners and organizations will be assisting with this restoration work day.

  •  Blandford Nature Center student interns, volunteers and staff
  • Grand Rapid Public Schools’ Blandford Environmental Education Program (BEEP)
  • Cornerstone University (intern)
  • Grand Valley State University, student volunteers
  • Grand River Preparatory School
  • Ottawa Conservation District and Kent Conservation District

If you would like to volunteer or be involved at Blandford Nature Center please call (616) 735-6240 or visit http://blandfordnaturecenter.org/get-involved/.