Meridian Township plans controlled burn at Davis Foster Land Preserve

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Within the next several weeks, Meridian Township will continue its goal of preserving its lands by orchestrating a controlled burn on 14 acres of the Davis Foster Land Preserve.

Source: Brittany Waugh

On March 11, Kelsey Dillon, the township’s stewardship coordinator, released information on the township’s website and the township mailed information detailing the burn.

“Fire stimulates native plants to grow by darkening the soil and increasing its temperature,” said Dillion. “… releasing nutrients, keeping woodlands and prairies more open and sunny, and discouraging plants that are not adapted to fire, such as nonnative invasive species.”

In 2000, Meridian Township residents passed a millage for the Land Reservation Program. The program was started to manage the township’s 956 acres of “beautiful, scenic, and natural” lands.

While the intention of the fire is to preserve the land and stimulate plant growth, the fire will be near residential land where families and individuals will not be relocating during the time.

Residents like Asya Hubbard are concerned about what this fire will mean for residents.

“I do not much about ‘controlled fires,’ but it is frightening that this will be so close to my home,” said Hubbard. “I am hoping the township does its best to control it so it will not be overwhelming or affect any people staying nearby.”

The township also constructed ‘burn breaks’ around the preserve to help control the fire.

“The burn is conducted in a slow and deliberate manner, with safety equipment on hand to monitor and control its spread,” according to the township’s press release.

The burns for the Davis Foster Preserve’s restored grassland was installed over 10 years ago through the program started by residents.

Grass in the Meridian Township area before the start of the burn. Source: Brittany Waugh

The purpose of these varies for many in the township but Dillon believes its purpose will continue to serve as a learning platform for local youth and has a greater purpose within the community.

“This land preserve serves as a valuable place-based learning location for schoolchildren to learn about native grassland ecosystems,” said Dillon.

Despite the change in the environment around us, the controlled burn is not expected to affect us negatively. Dillon realizes how some residents may have this belief but wants to assure residents are worry-free during this process.

“No, we are mimicking a naturally occurring fire that is essential for maintaining the ecological health of the grassland,” said Dillon.

Students in the area who often volunteer with the stewardship program were interested to learn about the experience. Caleb Conley and Claire Moore have participated in some local outdoor volunteering through their on-campus organizations.

“Being able to help the community is something I enjoy,” said Conley. “I never heard of using fire or having a controlled burn to help with plant vegetation, but whatever helps the environment is fine with me.”

Moore recently experienced gardening in a nearby area and is excited to see what change this might bring to the Davis Foster area.

“Being a volunteer in the stewardship program for almost a year has been awarding in the sense of connecting with the community,” said Moore. “The burn seems hazardous, but I am hoping it goes well and won’t affect residents that much.”

Dillon responded to concerns about how a resident may be affected by the fire:

Residents may notice a smoke plume in the distance, but it will not affect them. Neighbors that are close to the preserve that would notice the smoke have been notified by mail of the burn.”

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