Students and Volunteers Build a Boardwalk at Twin Waterfalls

By Adrienne Bozic, Regional Stewardship Organizer – Eastern Upper Peninsula

On a brisk Saturday morning, a group of intrepid young adults converged upon MNA’s Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve in Munising to celebrate All Saint’s Day in the most hallowed of ways: volunteering in the name of community service and ecological restoration. Regional Stewardship Organizers Adrienne Bozic and John Bagley led a crew of ten in construction of a new boardwalk over a wet section of trail. Twin Waterfalls is one MNA’s most visited sanctuaries, so these improvements were much needed and will provide a better trail system and visitor experience for years to come.

Our lumber was delivered, already cut to length, to the construction site at 8:30, thanks to 41 Lumber – who also extended a significant discount on all of the project materials. The enthusiastic group of students from Northern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, all the more dedicated for having foregone Halloween festivities for this endeavor (maybe we should have had a belated costume contest?), carried the lumber from the road up the trail to the job site.

Nicole Mathiasz carrying lumber

Nicole Mathiasz carries more than her weight in lumber! Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

After moving all of the lumber down the trail to the construction site, we set to work clearing the area and constructing the framework for the walkway.  At this point, the trail was still relatively dry.

But… our work site quickly turned into a wet, muddy quagmire which would have soured most; but expectations were realistic and spirits were high. One noted that “I never expected to have warm, dry feet anyway!”  Good thing!

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

The project slowly came together over the course of the morning. Everybody took part in all tasks, including cutting, drilling, digging, and most importantly, keeping spirits and energy high. I would welcome this good-natured crew on any of my projects!  David Buth of the Grand Rapids-based experiential education non-profit, Summer Journeys, brought several of his current and former students and leaders.  He noted that this service project was a perfect fit for his organization’s goal to “transform adolescents through experiential learning so they become stewards of their communities and selves”. Though the Twin Waterfalls project was not officially part of his curriculum, we agree that participation in activities like MNA work days help people acquire knowledge, skills, and confidence.  Working on service projects enables people to better appreciate and act ethically in the places they visit and call home.  We hope to work more with Summer Journeys in the future!

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

Everyone lent a hand, and while some present may not necessarily agree that “many hands make light work”, it certainly made it more enjoyable! One student was even overheard exclaiming, “I love volunteering!”

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Four hours of heavy labor in the cold really works up an appetite, so we broke for lunch at noon to enjoy hearty and delicious sandwiches and sides generously donated by the Falling Rock Café in downtown Munising.

Alas, the end of a long work day came before we could complete the project.  But we got a significant portion built and a great foundation to add to in the future. Besides…we had hot pizza and cold drinks awaiting us at Main Street Pizza in Munising, who offered to donate all the pizza we could eat and then some!  And we all had a long drive awaiting us: some back to Marquette, and some an all-day drive back home to Grand Rapids.  What a commitment by these dedicated volunteers! You can see the keen sense of satisfaction on the faces of these well-fed volunteers at the end of a long, tough day.

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

More improvements are yet needed, and additional segments of boardwalk have yet to be built.  Keep your eye out for future opportunities to help improve this fantastic natural area! Volunteer Days will be posted on the MNA website.

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Thanks to all of the participants who showed up on Saturday to lend a much-needed hand; and without whom this project would not have happened: David Buth, Sky Curie, Tyler Lenderink, Peter Donnelly, Nicole Mathiasz, Kelly Radius, Nathan Sherman, Kathryn Lund Johnson, Maddie Tencate.

Special thanks to the generous local business donors who made this project possible: 41 Lumber, Falling Rock Café, Main Street Pizza, the Munising Chamber of Commerce, and the Magnusson Hotel

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Photographer Stephen Ross to host photo workshop at Twin Waterfalls

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Olson Falls by Mike Zajczenko

Water trickles down the sandstone falls surrounded by lush ferns.  Photo by Mike Zajczenko

Photographer Stephen Ross will guide guests through a photo workshop while snapping shots in the beautiful Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve located in Alger County, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The workshop, on Saturday May 31, will focus on techniques in photography including  basic digital camera use, lighting, composition and subject choice.

Stephen will also facilitate a group critique of the morning’s collected pictures followed by a short talk on techniques including effective use of the histogram and white balance.

The group will visit several other locations for additional practice. There will also be an additional sunset photography session offered to those who would like to attend.

The Twin Waterfalls sanctuary was acquired in 1986 and expanded on in following years totaling more than 17 acres of land.

The waterfalls, known as the Memorial Falls in commemoration of MNA’s friends and donors, are accessible to guests via several trails, a half-mile in length. The falls are made up of sandstone dating back 550 million years. This wall formation is known as the Munising Formation and is rose-colored and easily eroded by harsh winter weather.

Beech Drops by Ben Blazier

Beech drops appear, attaching themselves to the roots of beech trees. Photo by Ben Blazier

The rock atop the formation, the Au Train Formation, is made up of more firm sandstone which is less affected by erosion. This formation appears as a “shelf” over which the water trickles down.

The falls are home to several different plants including ferns, beech trees and a parasitic plant, the tan-colored beech drop, which can grow to 18 inches in length and secures itself to the roots of the beech tree.

The workshop will be held at the Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve, the Alger County Community Center, and nearby locations. The cost for the workshop is $35, and lunch is included. For more information and to register please contact Upper Peninsula Regional Stewardship Organizer Adrienne Bozic at abozic@michigannature.org.