MNA Volunteer Days: Red Cedar River Plant Preserve

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Red Cedar River Plant Preserve is more than just a 10-acre sanctuary in Williamston, Michigan, and the only one in Ingham County. This sanctuary is one of five MNA sanctuaries within the boundaries of a city and is close to the MNA’s former headquarters.

Usually land within cities has been far too degraded for MNA to claim as a sanctuary, but because of the floodplains within the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve, this area has surprisingly maintained its natural character so close to an urban area. This sanctuary was historically known as the Williamston Floodplain.

The sanctuary consists of floodplains and wetlands because it is so close to the Red Cedar River. There are also marshy and swamp-like areas as well.

These habitats are home to plant-life like marsh marigold, skunk cabbage and jewelweed. Some types of trees that grow on the floodplain ridge are black cherry and red oak. The ridge is welcoming to visitors, giving them a place to walk and explore during spring flooding season.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

This sanctuary is one of the few that MNA has built a boardwalk on and it is one of the longest and the only with an observation deck included in its design.

The area was donated in 2005 by Doug and Darlene Price, who with the help of engineer David Geyer have worked on protecting important parts of the habitat. MNA collaborated with them to change the future plans of the development of uplands in order to preserve the area within the sanctuary.

The redevelopment of the sanctuary’s boardwalk will help protect the floodplain. The old design could not withstand the severe flooding so MNA has organized volunteer days to rebuild the boardwalk with a design engineered to allow it to be more stable and provide more access to the sanctuary. About 40 feet of the boardwalk must be built this year of a total of 150 feet, and MNA is enlisting all the help it can get.

MNA extends its gratitude to engineers Jim Rossman  and Paul Rice for volunteering their time to develop the design, cost estimates and construction phases, and stewards Jim and Besty Pifer who assisted in the planning process.

Upcoming Volunteer Days:

  • Thursday, July 10 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, July 24 at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, August 20 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 11 at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 18 at 10 a.m.

Please contact Rachel Maranto for more information about the project and volunteer days at

Christmas trees, global warming and tar sands: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Christmas tree farm in Iowa. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For U.S. Christmas trees, a festival of blights (Mother Nature Network): Christmas trees across the U.S. are suffering from a deadly soil disease, flooding, heat waves and other severe weather caused by climate change. North Carolina, the number 2 Christmas tree state, is losing $6 million every year because of a deadly water mold called Phytophthora root rot. Plant pathologist Gary A. Chastagner calls it a “national problem.” Oregon could lost $304 million due to the outbreak.

Panel says global warming carries risk of deep changes (New York Times): A scientific panel said continued global warming may lead to the possible collapse of polar sea ice, mass extinction of plants and animals, and vast dead zones in oceans. The panel wants to create an early warning system because they believe people have done little to prepare for the changing climate. James W.C. White, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, said the change is inevitable and the hope is that the change will happen gradually so society has time to adapt.

Report: Great Lakes ill-equipped to ship tar sands safely (WKAR): The Alliance for the Great Lakes released a report that said there are gaps in Enbridge’s oil spill response and prevention methods. The group is concerned because tar sands crude oil is extremely difficult to clean up, according to Lyman Welch, the water quality program director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Enbridge is still trying to clean up the tar sands crude oil in the Kalamazoo watershed from three years ago.

Study identifies obstacles to aquaculture expansion (Great Lakes Echo): According to the Michigan Sea Grant, fish farms could bring in $1 billion a year with better sustainability. Michigan’s abundant lakes and fresh groundwater give it the potential for growth in the industry. Dan Vogler, the president of Michigan Aquaculture Association, said we could see a $1 billion industry by 2025. Fish farms are still relatively new, making them mismatched with Michigan’s environmental regulations.

Rising ocean acidification leads to anxiety in fish (Science Daily): Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and MacEwan University have shown that the rising acidity levels in the ocean are causing anxiety among rockfish. This species is an important commercial species in California. Martin Tresguerres, a Scripps marine biologist, said the anxious behavior is a concern because rockfish will not be able to adapt to their dynamic environment and will spend less time foraging for food.