The East Lansing Environmental Stewardship Program seeks to restore the health of park biotic communities by removing invasive plant species and replacing them with native species. Of the 28 parks in the City of East Lansing, White Park, Fine Park and Hawk Nest Park have been selected as the focus of the program. These parks were chosen as signature stewardship projects due to their size, predominance of natural areas and proximity to neighborhoods. They were also chosen to ensure that stewardship projects were evenly distributed throughout the community.
Henry Fine Park
Henry Fine Park contains 27 acres of forest and is located adjacent to Pinecrest Elementary School. Approximately two acres of land that was once densely populated by invasive plants have been cleared of invasive plants through the hard work of volunteers.
The invasive shrubs found in Henry Fine Park, Common and Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica and Frangula alnus), were commonly used as privacy shrubs in the past. The shrubs spreads quickly and dominates many natural areas due to lack of natural controls, competition and predation. It produces a dense shade that suppresses growth of native seedlings beneath it, further reducing biodiversity and nutrient sources for wildlife, birds, insects and other plants.
More than 90 East Lansing volunteers helped with this habitat restoration project. Volunteers removed buckthorn and helped plant more than 400 native seedlings to kick start the succession back to a native landscape. Species planted include white pine, tamarack, white spruce, sycamore, river birch, red bud, elderberry, highbush cranberry, nannyberry, serviceberry, cherry and white dogwood.
Hawk Nest Park
Hawk Nest Park is a 22-acre park located in the Hawk Nest neighborhood. The park was developed in 2010 with the assistance of a Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant. The grant provided 75% of the cost to construct and install a playground, pavilion, wildlife viewing platforms, pathways and an interpretive trail. It also covered the costs of completely replanting the site.
Prior to Hawk Nest Park being designated a park, the site had been stripped and graded and five detention basins were created to collect storm water. The land was left bare and was quickly overtaken by weeds and invasive plant species, including reed-cannery grass, stinging nettle, golden-rod and others. As part of the park construction, approximately 12 acres of the site was seeded with native Michigan plant species to create wet mesic prairies and emergent wetland ecosystems.