Celebrate Spring with MNA!

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Spring has sprung, and has already brought with it markedly warmer weather and the beginning buds of plants sprouting back to life. In addition to numerous sanctuaries ideal for Michiganders eager to invigorate their muscles and minds after another winter, MNA has several upcoming events and activities for nature enthusiasts to look forward to. It’s a great time to be outdoors and reconnect with nature and one another through seasonal family-friendly fun!

Participate in a 5K

The Karner Blue Butterfly and Family Fun Run & 5K will be hosted Saturday, May 20 at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids as part of the Pure Michigan™ FITness Series Challenge; in addition, there will be a Kids 1 Mile Fun Run as well. As if being active in the great outdoors and supporting a good cause isn’t motivation enough, participants who earn a mere 5 points will be entered for grand prize drawing for a trip up the Mackinac Bridge Tower! Proceeds from the race go to the protection of habitat for the endangered Karner blue. Read up on this small yet splashy species and its preferred habitat here.

Celebrate Earth Day

A fun and earth-friendly activity is planned for visitors to the MNA booth Sunday, April 23 during the Ann Arbor 46th annual Earth Day Festival, held from 12-4pm at the Leslie Science and Nature Center. The festival is a great opportunity to engage in activities that celebrate Earth and learn about environmental topics through live-animal presentations, naturalist-led hikes, informational presentations and discussions. You can even dress up as your favorite plant or animal! Nature lovers of all ages are welcome. No signup is necessary.

Earth Day - GVSU interns and Five Lakes steward

Visit a sanctuary

Many MNA sanctuaries that are open to the public are ideal destinations for visitors to enjoy and connect with nature through various outdoor activities like scenic hikes and peaceful walks, seasonal wildflower displays, birding and photography. Below is a list of MNA sanctuaries selected for these springtime activities, but a more comprehensive list allowing you to search for sanctuaries in your area can be viewed here.

Sharon Zahrfeld Memorial Nature Sanctuary


Keweenaw Shores No 1 Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw Shores 1 - Charles Eshbach (2)

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary


Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve


Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary

Prairie trillium at Trillium Ravine

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary


Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary

EPSON DSC picture

Become a volunteer

MNA coordinates numerous volunteer workdays throughout the year, providing participants with information and experience on the removal of invasive species for the preservation of native plant communities that form the basis of ecologically important habitats. Find a day to get involved with workdays in your area by keeping tabs on the MNA events calendar! Upcoming workdays include Dolan Nature Sanctuary, Dowagiac Woods, Mystery Valley Karst Preserve, Riley-Shurte Woods, Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, and Grinnell Nature Sanctuary. Also upcoming is a guided nature hike through Dorion Rooks Nature Sanctuary.

workday at Goose Creek

Become a steward

Those looking for additional involvement can become a steward for MNA. It is both easy and rewarding, with a minimum requirement of visiting a sanctuary once per year and completing a comprehensive monitor report. The ideal steward also leads field trips and educational events, marks boundaries and maintains trails at the sanctuary. If you are interested in becoming a steward, please contact MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon by email at abacon@michigannature.org or by calling the MNA office at (866) 223-2231.

Bill McEachern and David Mancini at Kernan - Rachel Maranto

Students Make a Difference at MNA’s Estivant Pines

By Nancy Leonard
MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer

On a crisp late fall morning in the Keweenaw, Ted and Alice Soldan, stewards of the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, made their way north with a pick-up load of lumber, newly-sawn at their own mill.  By 10:30 am, most of the young student volunteers had arrived to meet Ted and Alice at the Pines and were chomping at the bit for the project to begin.  Nineteen young people, mostly MTU students from the service fraternity Delta Upsilon, and one from the Rotary group, Rotaract, came to spend their Saturday in service for “Make a Difference Day”.

group of students

MTU students

The Estivant Pine Nature Sanctuary serves as the flagship sanctuary for the Keweenaw.  Even though it is tucked almost at the end of this remote northern peninsula, it is the largest by far, and the most visited.  Ancient giant white pines are scattered throughout and are easily seen from a well-maintained trail system.

Before the work begins, Alice posed the group in front of the MNA sign for a portrait.  Ted, in the meantime, organized the long support board timbers and the bundles of boardwalk steps into work site groups.  The goal for the day:  haul in the lumber for various boardwalk projects.

man smiling

A student smiles while carrying lumber to the site.

Ted and Alice have hauled in lumber for years.  By the looks on their faces, it was obvious that they were totally pleased that younger bodies would bear the load this time.

Ted shared with the group an overview of the project at hand and explains why and how the boardwalks are built.  Then he directed the hauling to work sites, the most distant site being more than a mile from the trailhead.  In no time, the lumber was hoisted by the volunteers and hauled up the trail.

students carrying wood through forest

Students carry the wood to the sites within the sanctuary.

I followed along behind the group that has chosen the longest route, the one to work site four. Along the way, Ted pointed out a special tree, told a story and shared a quote from the likes of Edward Abbey.

Having finally arrived at the work site, the students were instructed as to how to stack the lumber and then how to camouflage it.  And rather than just turning back, Ted led the group on the rest of the trail loop.  At the Bertha D. Memorial Grove, the group was encouraged to sit a bit and relish being in the presence of giant pines. Ted shared more stories and more quotes; he obviously loves this place and the students picked up on it.

students sit among trees

Students take a break and admire the giants that surround them.

By early afternoon, all the lumber has been hauled in, old lumber hauled out and deadfalls cut up and moved off trail.

As Ted says, “We walked out of the Pines …. leaving things much better than they were.” That, I would say, is called making a difference.