Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve



Native Plant Sale

Volunteer Opportunities

Friendly Faces


Nature Neighbors


The Bunker Interpretive Center

Walking trails are open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.

Bunker Interpretive Center (BIC) hours

Academic year:
M–F  9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

M–F  8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Closed Saturday

Closed Sundays and holidays.
Admission to the trails and BIC is free.

1750 East Beltline Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 526-7600

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native plant saleGrow beautiful landscapes with plants that support local wildlife!  Native plants are the flowers, grasses, trees and shrubs that have lived in Michigan since before European settlement. Since these plants originate from Michigan, they are often better able to withstand our unique climate and soils than their cultivated counterparts. Native perennials are also a great way to add color to your gardens and attract butterflies, song birds and other wildlife!  To find out more about the species for sale, click here

When:  Saturday, May 4 at 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Where: Bunker Interpretive Center, West Entrance

Help us spread the word!  Tell your family, friends and neighbors about the Native Plant Sale, and encourage them to go native. Proceeds from the sale support our educational programming, enabling us to keep the majority of our programing free or reasonably priced.
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Spring is in full swing at the preserve.  Here are a couple of opportunities for you to get your hands dirty, learn more about native plants, and help out a great cause.  We appreciate whatever time you can contribute!  While you can just show up, it is helpful for planning if you are able to let us know when you plan on volunteering. To do this, click here. If you have specific questions, contact the leader in charge of the event. Please bring your own work gloves, and wear clothes you do not mind getting dirty.

Spring Cleaning at BIC & Native Gardens
We will be cleaning out gardens, clearing cob webs, raking leaves, and pulling garlic mustard.
Leaders: Jeanette Henderson, Program Manager & Julie Wilbourn, Dept. Asst. (, 616-526-7602)

Location: BIC (1750 Beltline Ave SE, GR 49546)
Thursday, April 18 at 9:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Tuesday, April 23 at 9:30 a.m.–12 p.m.

Transplanting Native Seedlings & Tagging Pots
Plants raised support this and future Native Plant Sales, as well as restoration efforts at both the Ecosystem Preserve and Flat Iron Lake Preserve.
Leader: Alex, Stewardship Intern (, 616-254-9095)

Location: Greenhouses at the Preserve House on Lake Drive (3770 Lake Drive SE, GR 49546. The house is on the south side of the road closer to East Paris than East Beltline. The numbers are on a white mailbox. You will see the greenhouse at the end of the driveway. It is the only house with a large greenhouse.)
Potting & Tagging days:
Wednesdays, April 17 & 24 at 9–11 a.m.
Monday, April 22 at 1:30–3:30 p.m.
Moving days (plants will be moved from the Greenhouse to the BIC):
Monday, April 29 at 1:30–3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 1 at 9–11 a.m.
Transplanting days (for future plant sales & restoration projects):
Monday, May 6 at 1:30–3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 8 at 9–11 a.m.

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JulieJulie Wilbourn, Ecosystem Preserve Department Assistant

Why do you like working at the preserve?
I have always felt the Ecosystem Preserve is a Grand Rapids treasure, a place of beauty, a place where individuals & families can center themselves.  I am grateful to now be part of an organization that is so committed to enriching the environment & community.

What is one of your favorite preserve moments?
Actually, one of my favorite preserve moments happened outside of the preserve.  A month after my son attended a summer camp here, he was participating in a group activity involving finding bugs, and thanks to CCEP camp, he knew right where to look.  The other children watched and listened intently, as he proceeded to tell them about the ants carrying their larvae back to the nest, and other jobs in an ant colony.  Obviously the camp topics and how they were conveyed left quite an impression on him; at the same time I was impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm the preserve staff instilled in him.  We were both struck with pride in that moment, thanks to the preserve.

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The other day we were out on the trails and heard a “quack-quack” call.  There were no ducks in sight, and we soon discovered that the wood frogs were calling!  This spring we encourage you to take your family outside to a local pond and listen for the many frog calls.  Just like birds, each species of frog has its own unique call, and when you learn to recognize the various songs, you will have a good idea of what kind of frog is near.  Here are some of the most common singing amphibians in West Michigan and helpful hints for recognizing their calls:

  • The Green Frog sounds like a loose banjo string: Gong-gonng gong-gonnng!
  • The Gray Tree Frog comes out after a nice rain and sounds like a ringing bell:  Bring-ring-ring!
  • The Wood Frog quacks like a duck: Quack-quack-quack!
  • Spring Peepers are incredibly loud when they all call together, and live up to their name: Peep-peep-peep-peep!
  • The American Toad sounds like a ringing bell: Bring-brrring-brrrring!

Frog Quiz is a great website where you can hear the songs of various frogs and toads, and you can even take a quiz to test your knowledge.  You can also note your frog call observation in the Michigan Herps Atlas, an online database that invites you to record your sightings to help scientists gather data about reptiles and amphibians.
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You might find this neighbor at the preserve and near your neighborhood!

Meet Your Neighbor:
  Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)wood duck pair

Description: Wood ducks are 18.5 inches long and weighs 1.3lb. Males are known for their beautiful colors having a green head with white stripes, a chestnut chest, red eyes, and many other colors on their bodies.  Female wood ducks are gray brown in color and have speckled gray wings. 
Voice: Wood ducks have squeaky whistles. While females create a piercing ooEEEkK squeal, males create a high and long jweep sound. 
Habitat: Wood ducks can be spotted in wooded swamps, streams, marshes, ponds, and small lakes.
Interesting Fact: Wood ducks nest in trees near water. When the eggs hatch, the ducklings will jump down from the tree and move towards the water. Ducklings will jump from places in trees that are as high as 89 meters off the ground. 

Be a Good Neighbor:  

  • Learn more about wood ducks: click here.
  • Learn how to make a wood duck box and the best location for setting them up: click here.  Wood Ducks nest in the cavity of a tree. The cavity can be natural or a hole abandoned by a woodpecker. They prefer trees that overhang water or are close to a water source. Trees with cavities are becoming rarer and rarer with wetland loss and competition from other species. If they cannot find a tree cavity, wood ducks will readily use nest boxes built by people.

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