Riparian Buffer Restoration at Eastmanville Farm

Our forests face a number of threats. Over the past two decades, Emerald ash borer destroyed nearly all of the ash trees in Michigan. As stewards and land managers of park property, Ottawa County Parks & Recreation is constantly monitoring for and treating oak wilt, hemlock woolly adelgid, beech bark, and other forests pests. In addition to forest pests, trees young and old are vulnerable to competition of aggressively-spreading invasive plants that have the advantage of fewer predators.

Studies from US Forest Service predict that species composition of forest ecosystems are expected to change as tree species adapt to warmer and drier summer temperatures, more extreme water conditions, and milder winters,” said Melanie Manion, Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Natural Resources Manager. “These studies provide recommended strategies maintain overall ecosystem function and health by gradually enabling and assisting adaptive transitions of tree species and forest communities in suitable locations. This project is designed based in part on these recommendations.”

With a quarter of a mile of Grand River shoreline, Eastmanville Farm is critical component of building resiliency to the extreme flood events along the Grand River Greenway in Ottawa County. The existing shoreline is dominated by invasive reed canary grass with numerous dead ash trees. Without further armoring and stabilizing the shoreline, the risk of erosion increases greatly. In 2018, the Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Commission began a plan for the restoration of 52 acres to native ecosystems.

To help fund this work, Ottawa County Parks & Recreation partnered with the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) and two other organizations for a nationally competitive grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund. Grant funds will help the partners work together to improve the health of some of the region’s damaged forests, and employ a proactive approach to keeping them healthy into the future amidst the many challenges local forests face. A total of $13,700 of funding from the grant and a $14,000 match from Ottawa County Parks & Recreation will support the restoration work.

The project area spans what ecologists call the “tension zone,” a region where northern tree species, like Eastern Hemlock meet southern tree species, such as Tulip trees and they blend together. When complete, the project will restore the current riparian buffer zone with a diversity of more southern tree species.

“The use of southern species of trees should help mitigate the effects of projected warmer and drier summers, keeping our forests healthy for many years into the future,” said Manion. Species such as Pawpaw, Sycamore, and Kentucky coffee tree will be secured from nurseries from southwest Michigan or Indiana. “Due to Ottawa County’s position at the northern edge of the tension zone, these species do occur within parks along the Grand River, but in lower numbers,” said Manion. “Although, the root structure of the trees will help armor the shoreline from increased frequency and strength of Grand River flooding.”

“We are responding to significant disruptions to our ecosystems in Ottawa County and the impacts on parks land. If we don’t intervene to mitigate or reverse these issues, the situation will likely worsen. Grant funding helps us to do this in a cost-effective manner,” said Manion.

We partnered with miECObuzz to share more information about this project.

Grant information

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) and four regional partners are excited to announce that from more than 80 projects submitted nationwide, they were one of only thirteen selected to receive grant funds from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund, which is generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. This grant will help the partners work together to improve the health of some of the region’s damaged forests, and employ a proactive approach to keeping them healthy into the future amidst the many challenges local forests face, including climate change.

Banding together, SWMLC, Ottawa County Parks, The Nature Conservancy-Michigan, Chikaming Open Lands, and Shirley Heinze Land Trust are undertaking this $375,000 project to keep existing forests healthy and to plant new and resilient forests. Over the course of two years the group plans to plant over 40,000 trees, using species and creating forest habitats that can better adapt to projected climate change and invasive species. Over the next two years these partners will improve forest health and plant new forests across nature preserves and county parks spanning over 70 miles of latitude from northwest Indiana to the Grand River in west Michigan. Across 14 different forested areas throughout this region, the group will take action to positively impact nearly 500 acres of forest by treating for invasive species, planting new forests, and diversifying existing forests.

For more information and climate data, please visit the US Forest Service website.

About the Author

Jessica VanGinhoven

Jessica is the media contact for the Ottawa County Parks & Recreation Department: jvanginhoven@miottawa.org, (616) 994-4716