Protecting and restoring Ann Arbor's natural areas and fostering an environmental ethic among its citizens
Volume 26, Number 1
Park Focus: Devonshire Park
Max Miley, Conservation Worker
If there's one thing I've come to learn from working at NAP, it's that the folks who live in Ann Arbor, more than most, appreciate the natural spaces in their city. Our largest natural area, Bird Hills, is almost 150 acres, but did you know we have 100 parks and natural areas which are smaller than two acres? These tiny patches of green are seldom the ecological oases of our larger parks, though they provide the solace and convenience which make living in Ann Arbor so pleasant.
Devonshire Park does just that. At 1.16 acres, most visits are short-lived, but the function of this park is essential. The single paved path which cuts through Devonshire Park connects the eastern tail of Devonshire Road with Geddes Ave. This corridor creates easy access to Gallup Park for walkers, runners, and bikers who get a short break from the monotony of human structures while they take a few deep breaths of fresh oxygen.
Many red oaks (Quercus rubra) and a few white oaks (Q. alba) dominate the canopy, while the understory is fighting an intrusion of invasive honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.). A lone sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) watches over the path, greeting each passerby silently. I encourage you to visit throughout the spring, and as you walk through Devonshire Park, notice how the neighboring structures disappear among the unfurling leaves, and enjoy your moment of solace.
Park Focus: Malletts Creek Nature Area
Ethan Glassman, Conservation Worker
Malletts Creek has an eleven square-mile watershed, and Malletts Creek Nature Area takes up approximately three acres of it. Although the park has no formal trails, it provides great opportunities for birdwatching from neighboring properties.
With ten miles of open water, Malletts Creek flows through a channel cut by a glacier over 14,000 years ago. Malletts Creek Nature Area is just one stop on the journey, as the creek passes through parks like Mary Beth Doyle, Huron Parkway Nature Area, and Braun Nature Area, before flowing into South Pond—right next to the NAP office—and finally depositing itself in the Huron River.
One of the major obstacles threatening the health of Malletts Creek is urban runoff. As a result, Malletts Creek suffers rather low insect diversity in the creek itself and is, unfortunately, emblematic of issues many urban watersheds face. Fortunately, the park consists of a riparian wetland that helps to shield the creek from urban runoff, and in recent years the creek has received increased attention in restoration projects to reduce the effects of runoff as well as to improve the diversity of native benthic populations – the various microscopic species that play vital roles in aquatic ecosystems.
Park Focus: Stone School Park
Max Miley, Conservation Worker
Stone School Park is a 4.62-acre wooded park nestled between Stone School Road and the old Ann Arbor Stone High School, now called Pathways to Success. Surrounded by local Ann Arbor history, the park bears the name of the original Stone School opened in 1826 which still resides across the street as a co-operative preschool. One can imagine the land on which Stone School Park lies must have been enjoyed by generations of school children over the course of three centuries, still providing recreation and relaxation today.
I recommend parking in the Pathways to Success parking lot and slowly approaching the entrance of Stone School Park, taking note of the monstrous white oak (Quercus alba) trees growing just on the west side of the park boundary. Each tree has a diameter of well over five feet, and the branches stretch incredible distances from the trunk. This pair of oaks allows me to look back in time at what the oak-savannas of pre-industrial Ann Arbor must have been.
As you walk through the park east towards Stone School Road, you may hear the calls of spring peepers or other frogs hoping to find a mate. (And if you do hear any frog-calls, drop us a line! We want to know about it!). The park's wetlands may serve as a safe haven for frogs to link up and reproduce. I encourage you to visit the park yourself, see what wildlife you can find, and possibly take a step back in time.
Coordinator's Corner: There is always light…
I tried to start this article around January 6, as the world watched the US capitol being attacked by US citizens. Like many, I was unable to pull myself away from the news as I watched the horrifying scene unfold. For days afterward, I continued to seek out news about the event, hoping – I guess – to hear something that would help me make sense of it all and then put it behind me. For me, the release from that news addiction came on Inauguration Day. More specifically, it came in the hopeful words of America's First Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, and her poem The Hill We Climb, that ended with the words “There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it."
Tears came to me as the impressive Ms. Gorman delivered her powerful words so eloquently and so passionately. After what the country had just been through the previous few weeks, her message of hope and inspiration was just what I needed. Indeed it was exactly what I had been longing for: new hope, renewed passion, the boldness to think that we really were going to be able to move past this, a flickering sense that maybe things really were going to be alright in the future.
I suppose some may attribute Ms. Gorman's hope to youthful innocence and naïveté. Maybe. But even if those are the dreams of a naïve youth, they are an inspiration to me.
As then-candidate Biden predicted during one of the presidential debates last fall, it has been a long, dark winter. How absolutely joyful this February to feel the stunningly bright sunshine reflecting off a brilliantly white snowfall, and to watch the days slowly lengthen, minute-by-minute, as we march hopefully toward spring. I'm fortunate this winter to be living a bit closer to nature than usual, away from our suburban home, at a cabin in the Northwoods. So I feel this transition to spring a bit more viscerally than I do most years. I watch the sun rise and set just a bit further north every single day. And I have just a few minutes longer every afternoon to sneak in a quick ski out my back door.
By the time this newsletter reaches you, spring should be in full swing. I encourage you, this year especially, to get outside and witness this phenomenon. Don't just watch it out the window. Walk in the woods. Drink your morning coffee outside and listen to the amazing diversity of bird songs in your backyard. Stop by a vernal pool in the evening and soak up the cacophony of frog calls. Peel off those heavy winter layers and feel the sun warm your skin; really feel it. Take off your sunglasses and enjoy the brilliance of the sun on your face. And remember, “There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it."
-David Borneman, Natural Area Preservation Manager
More opportunities to enjoy Ann Arbor's parks
Whether you're volunteering, birding, or brushing up on your tree ID skills —chances are you you're already on your way to meeting the “Visit Every Park" challenge created by the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit. Locations and more info can be found at: A2gov.org/VEPChallenge
The VEP Challenge is a great opportunity to record some data while you're out checking new parks off your list! We recommend the “Seek" app by iNaturalist, and we always like seeing more data come in from our citizen scientists! The “Seek" app is available through Google Play and the Apple App Store. For more information, visit: www.inaturalist.org/pages/seek_app
Welcome, new Park Stewards!
Mark Hanss, Oakwoods Nature Area
Joann Constantinides, Bluffs Nature Area
Many thanks to the groups who volunteered with NAP recently. We could not make such a difference without you!
Ann Arbor Jewish Religious School's Beit Sefer
UM Men's Swimming and Diving Team
The Center for Michigan
Garlic Mustard Weed Out Week
Saturday, May 22 – Sunday, May 30
Sunrise to Sunset
Garlic Mustard Weed Out is an annual tradition! And for the second year in a row, Weed Out Day is Weed Out Week!
Garlic mustard is an aggressive invasive plant that can quickly crowd out native plant species and decrease biodiversity in the woods. Identifying and pulling garlic mustard is fun and easy for all ages, making this a great volunteer opportunity for families. AND—you can participate from anywhere!
Survey your own yard to find and remove target species, and spend some time pulling in your local City of Ann Arbor Nature Areas. Visit A2gov.org/GMWOW for all the details.
Park Steward Coordinator: It's hard to believe it's been nearly three years since I first began to work as an Outreach Assistant here at NAP, and the seasons have just flown by! I have learned so much from my fellow staff and volunteers alike during my time with the city. I've explored new parks, seen all kinds of beautiful flora and fauna, participated in exciting controlled ecological burns, and gained a new appreciation for the power of volunteerism. I have accepted a position with the River Raisin Watershed Council in nearby Lenawee County, and hope to stay in touch with the NAP community even after transitioning into this new organization. Thank you fellow NAP staff and volunteers for all the time we've spent together!
Becca Naumenko, Conservation Worker: I have thoroughly enjoyed working for Ann Arbor's Natural Area Preservation, but will not be returning this spring as I am moving to Minneapolis, MN. Ann Arbor has such an excellent sense of community which will certainly be missed. It will be an odd feeling for spring to not be marked by the wildflower growth at Mary Beth Doyle Natural Area, and by the amazing fun of burn season. I can't wait to come back and see how all our community's hard work has changed parks for the better.
VolunteerHub launching in June
This year we are working to make major updates to the way volunteers will register for workdays, sign up to attend trainings and kickoff, track volunteer hours, complete waivers, find new events, and receive updates from NAP.
There is nothing you need to do just yet, but be sure to check back in the summer edition of the NAP Newsletter for details on how to create your own VolunteerHub profile and stay up to date with all that is happening at NAP.
Newsletter going all-online this fall
NAP is taking a close look at our operations to identify ways we can do better. One of the sectors identified for implementing carbon neutrality is resource reduction, which has the goal of working towards a circular economy by changing the way we use, reuse, and dispose of materials. To do our part in supporting this sector, the summer 2021 NAP Newsletter will be the final edition offered in print. If you currently receive the newsletter in print, please be sure we have your email address on file by dropping us a line at
[email protected] or calling us at 734.794.6627. We will be sure to get you set up to receive all future editions via email.