Parks equal green space, so they must be "green," right?
Many of them waste a ton of resources with non-native plantings that require frequent watering and fertilizer. These plants can overtake native ones, meaning that land meant to preserve nature instead re-imagines it in a suburban-friendly palette.
One park in Oakland County is turning that notion on its head with an enhanced effort to consider park maintenance as a kind of environmental stewardship. The county hopes that its "green" effort at Independence Oaks County Park
includes initiatives that are easily transferable to other parks in the area.
Independence Oaks is 1,088 acres. It has a 68-acre glacial lake and is home to the headwaters region of the Clinton River -- a watershed encompassing 760 square miles of land in four counties. Its ecosystem consists of wetlands, rolling grasslands and a large portion of wetlands that are hardwood-conifer swamp which has been identified as a rare natural resource in Michigan.
The parks department started its efforts in 2006. First up was combating invasive species including buckthorn, phragmites, honeysuckle and autumn olive. These efforts, which have included mechanical removal and chemical treatment, continue to the present.
Next up: a prescribed burn program, which began in 2007. "Our goal is to combat non-native species and give our native, fire-adapted grasses and wildflowers a competitive edge in landscape," says Brittany Bird, natural resource planner.
The burns, conducted in spring to minimize disruption to nesting birds and snakes, are part of a long-term strategy that aims to restore historical natural communities like prairies, oak-hickory woodlands and wet meadows. They take place under the supervision of both park staff and local fire departments.
The results: so far, so good. Increased abundance of native plant species has been observed, as well as nine species of butterflies never before seen at Independence Oaks.
The park has also instituted a Natural Resources Stewardship Program to conserve rare species, including the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. It conducts frog and toad and grassland bird surveys, butterfly counts and nest box monitoring programs as well.
It turns out that just 35 miles north of Detroit, in Clarkston, lies a real slice of nature.Source: Desiree Stanfield, Oakland County Parks and RecreationWriter: Kelli B. Kavanaugh
Photos by John Meyland