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.
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!
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!
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!”
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.
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.
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.