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Thurston Nature Center is a 24-acre preserve located just north of Thurston Elementary School. The preserve includes a pond, a series of trails, and five ecosystems that are home to a diverse group of birds, fish, insects, and wildlife year-round. The area is open to the public and also used for classroom fieldtrips that bring science to life with outdoor educational experiences.
For over 45 years volunteers have cared for the nature center and its 8-acre pond that is a source of water for Miller’s Creek and the Huron River. In 2018 Thurston Nature Center received a grant from the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office to build a rain garden and to add vegetation to reduce erosion along the nearby hillside.
The rain garden was built near the bottom of a hill where it catches rain water runoff from the neighborhood, including pollution like dirt and debris before it reaches the pond. Then the water can slowly soak into the ground in the rain garden instead of rushing directly into the pond. At the same time, the soil in the rain garden acts like a natural filter to clean the water and keep the pond healthy.
To help stop erosion along the hillside that leads to the pond, volunteers sowed seeds from a special blend of native grasses and sedges that will grow deep, strong roots to hold the ground in place. The new plantings are along the path of the water which will slow it down and help prevent further erosion while also reducing the amount dirt, leaves, and debris that reaches the pond.
Preventing erosion along the hillside and catching rain water runoff in the rain garden helps protect the pond and keep the water clean while also providing a beautiful and healthy habitat for wildlife and pollinators. We look forward to watching the Thurston Nature Center Rain Garden grow big and lush over the next few years!
The first picture shows when there was a big rain and the recently dug but unplanted garden quickly filled up with water! The second picture shows the rain garden shortly after planting and is filled with bluebells, lady fern, palm sedge, lizards tail, and marsh marigolds. This beautiful blend of native plants will change throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Spicebushes will be planted above the garden in the spring of 2019. The hillside was seeded with a mixture of riverbank wild rye, bristly cattail sedge, plains oval sedge, and silky wild rye.