As Earth Day nears, Meridian Township has 'higher awareness of the environment'

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By Ally Hamzey
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter

Environmental sustainability is an issue recognized and supported by many Meridian Township residents, but on April 22, recognized as Earth Day, it is celebrated with even more enthusiasm.

A squirrel poses in the Harris Nature Center. Photo by Ally Hamzey.

A squirrel poses in the Harris Nature Center. Photo by Ally Hamzey.

The township provides multiple events that promote environmental experiences and education to residents of all ages throughout the entire year, not only Earth Day.

Love-A-Park Day, on April 23, hosted by Meridian Township Parks and Recreation Department is a park, land, and public space public space clean-up event. Events such as Love-A-Park Day, Earth Friends Campfire, and Chipmunk Story Time are all events that push for environmental awareness and sustainability.

These events each have deeper, more resonating ripples in the Meridian Township community than just simple, entertaining events would ensue, as Senior Park Naturalist and Nature Center Coordinator of the Harris Nature Center, Kit Rich said.

“The main thing we strive to do is to find as many ways as possible to encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature,” Rich said. “Through that enjoyment, through the experience of participating in an outdoor activity, they start to make a connection with nature. Then, they start finding themselves wanting to help protect nature and the natural habitat.”

Rich said she “would guess [Meridian Township has] a high percentage of people who are aware of the environment’s need for our help and the things we can do for it.”

“We are pretty lucky here that there is a higher awareness of the environment than there is in other places,” Rich said.

According to Murari Suvedi, a professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University, said the most important aspect of Earth Day is “to send an education or message to citizens … especially the younger citizens.”

“I think we need to educate people who have been hurting the environment,” Suvedi said.

Suvedi said it is critical to answer the question of how to maintain our environment.

“How do we save the planet, how do we make it have sustainable living conditions, and how do we promote environmental stewardship?” Suvedi said.

Rich said Meridian Township Parks and Recreation Department’s main environmental focus is “habitat restoration, trying to remove the invasive and to bring in the native plants that were forced out, and to improve the quality of the environment.”

These environmental, goal oriented events aren’t just held around one day of the year, however.

“We like to really encourage people to be volunteers, and to help us with stewardship all through the year. So, it is not just on April 22,” Rich said. “We’re always looking for volunteers and we encourage service organizations all the time.”

A tree blooms in the Harris Nature Center. Photo by Ally Hamzey.

A tree blooms in the Harris Nature Center. Photo by Ally Hamzey.

Suvedi has specific ideas in mind for Meridian Township’s environmental improvement.

“I think they should promote planting various trees and flowers in the area, and they should educate people to recycle,” Suvedi said. “They must also try to fund many parks and recreation facilities for public use.”

Okemos resident Feliciana Henriques has never celebrated Earth Day, but plans to in the future.

“It is very important to treat our environment right,” Henriques said. “We have to treat our environment with respect and caution.”

Henriques says on her daily walks, the blatant views of pollution and littering are the most impactful displays of environmental disrespect to her.

“It is important to celebrate Earth Day because if people celebrate, they will get more involved, and they will take initiative to take more care of pollution and other issues,” Henriques said.

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