‘Stewardship Saturdays’ is a community effort run by Emma Campbell, the land stewardship coordinator for Meridian Township, aimed to remove invasive species that threaten local ecosystems from surrounding land.
Volunteers in the community work to plant a diverse selection of native plants where they will thrive. Campbell said, “As we take out the plants that give no benefit to our natural areas, we want to replace them with those that host lots of insects and wildlife.”
Meridian Township consists of 1,700 acres of land, made up of mainly wetlands and floodplain forests. Stewardship Saturdays run every other Saturday throughout the year.
“Now, we are able to cover more ground and get to parks and preserves that needed work before,” Campbell said. ““We have also diversified from invasive species management, and do a lot of native planting, seed collection, as well as trash cleanup.”
Campbell said the success of Stewardship Saturdays is from the dedication of the volunteers who routinely attend the events.
Heather DeFeijter-Rupp is a zoologist or Michigan State University and a dedicated volunteer in the program. “I spend a lot of my free time outside, and a colleague of mine mentioned he was doing clean-ups with Emma,” she said, “Studying zoology and working with Emma has given me the opportunity to learn more about the flora of Michigan.”
Campbell said the key to this program is the passion of the community, and that it doesn’t take a knowledgeable person to get involved.
Campbell said, “First, it (Stewardship Saturdays) is meant to take an individual and properly introduce them to nature. Teach someone how to identify a few plants – next time they go walking, they can recognize a friend in the forest. The workdays are meant to meld those that know the forests, flora and fauna, with those that don’t, and everyone in-between.”
Bernadette Osborn is a routine volunteer for Stewardship Saturdays and is involved in Earth Club at Okemos High School. Osborn said, “My most memorable experience so far has been removing invasive species at Ted Black Woods. At my most recent time there, I learned about the tulip tree, a prehistoric tree with yellowish-orange flowers, which I just found incredible.”
Source: Aubrey Rademacher/ Map of Ted Black Woods, an area in Meridian Township that Stewardship Saturdays Focus on
Another Okemos student involved in Stewardship Saturdays is Audrey Hirchert-Walton, who said Campbell leads the way at every meeting. “Although we focus on different areas and species each week, usually when you arrive, Emma will describe the property, what we’ll be removing or planting, what invasive species are and why they’re harmful.”
Source: Emma Campbell / A schedule of upcoming events in April, beyond Stewardship Saturdays
Source: Emma Campbell / An itinerary of May events planned through Stewardship Saturdays.
Campbell said the environmental programs at Meridian Conservation Corps are built to expand beyond Stewardship Saturdays. The team is introducing ‘Build Back the Buffer,’ which is an initiative to help property owners in Meridian Township to restore a native vegetation buffer around wetlands on their land.
Campbell said, “I have planned several MCC events to involve folks with these campaigns, doing on the ground field work, planting natives, collecting seed in the fall, tromping through wetlands and botanizing wetland vegetation, exploring vernal pools, you name it!
Campbell is also leading discovery walks in Fall of 2022 to familiarize the community with various flora and fauna in the surrounding environment.
Campbell said the bottom line to continue success in the program is to gain more support from the community. She said, “I think it’s important for individuals to understand that we need nature, and nature needs us. We all need to take a long look at where we come from as human beings, and find how we can play a role in preserving those roots – whatever it is, whatever your passion, learn how to incorporate the care of the Earth, as it is the only home we know how to live on.”