CCEP green heron logo Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve

september/ October 2015 Newsletter


Celebrating 30 Years

First Saturdays

Critters & Company Fall Series

Volunteers in Action

Nature Neighbors



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.

M–F  8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Closed weekends 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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Contributing Writers:

Julie Wilbourn,
Department Assistant

Taylor Stawecki,
Program Assistant

 Jeanette Henderson,
Program Manager

Celebrating 30 Years

The preserve has changed tremendously since 1985, when the first trail and overlooks were developed on its original 35 acres. Here’s a glimpse of how much we’ve grown in just the past 10 years:

  • A prairie demonstration, dune demonstration, and bioswale were created.
  • Coyotes and gray foxes made their home in the preserve.
  • We became a leading resource for native plants in Grand Rapids.
  • Three new educational programs were launched.
  • A Junior Volunteer Crew was started for teens.

We look forward to entering our fourth decade of educating for creation care, restoring the land, and renewing spirits at the preserve!
anniversary logo
Please join us for a 30th anniversary celebration during our Family Weekend Open House in October.  Drop in to create some of our favorite art projects using leaves and seeds.  Enjoy the fall foliage while you hike our scenic trails.  Express yourself by making a piece of land art of natural materials you find in the forest, and leave it for others to discover.  

When:   Saturday, October 24 at 10 am - 4 pm
Where: Bunker Interpretive Center
Cost:     Free, no registration required
Light refreshments will be offered.

land artAlso, keep an eye on our Facebook page for special anniversary posts, and more anniversary events in the works!


We are elated to announce two significant donations made to the Ecosystem Preserve.  Both The Harry A. & Margaret D. Towsley Foundation and The Loutit Foundation recently supported us with considerable gifts to our endowment.  We are so grateful for their generous contributions, and appreciate their confidence in the important work we do in environmental education and conservation.


While we are celebrating our successes in fulfilling our mission, we are also looking toward securing our financial future long-term.  Our goal is to fund a substantial endowment that will permanently sustain the educational programs offered, the flora and fauna inhabiting the land, and the operation expenses essential to retaining the vitality of the Ecosystem Preserve.

If you have enjoyed walking our trails on a beautiful day, learned a fascinating fact at one of our educational programs, or believe in inspiring stewardship for our natural resources, please consider giving to our endowment.  You can help to ensure that we leave nature for the next generation. 

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first saturdays

Our First Saturday family series returns for fall!

Nature's Recyclers Hike
Discover the important recycling role that turkey vultures, fungi, tadpoles, mice, and bacteria play in our environment as you hike through the preserve with Miss Jeanette. Learn the "rotten truth" about these creatures and many others in this hands-on program about nature's recyclers. This program is recommended for families with children ages 4-12. 

When:    Saturday, October 3 at 10:30 am - 12 pm
Where:  Bunker Interpretive Center
Cost:      Free, no registration required
Dress for the weather and walking the trails.

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Critters & company fall series

Join us in October, as Miss Jeanette takes our tykes to the trails. Your little ones will learn about ants, our senses in nature, seeds, and chipmunks, and find out how remarkable they each are. For more details, and to register, click here.

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volunteers in action

Our Junior Camp Crew makes all the difference when it comes to summer camp.   They keep things running smoothly behind the scenes, are great with the campers, and are just fun to be around in general.    It was wonderful getting to know our new volunteers, and to spend more time with our returning volunteers.  Thank you Clara, Sterling, Jillian, John, Matt, Sydney, Phoebe, Olivia, Alisa, Mark, Zachary, and Elizabeth!  We appreciate your sharing a week (or more) of your summer with us. 

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Nature Neighbors

You might find this neighbor at the preserve and near your neighborhood!

Meet Your Neighbor: American Beech Tree (Fagus grandifolia)

American beech barkAmerican beech leaf

Description:  A large, deciduous tree, the American Beech usually grows 59-92 feet in height and 20-47 inches in diameter. It is host to leaves that are alternate, 3-5 inches in length, and coarsely toothed. A defining characteristic of the American Beech is its bark: thin, smooth, and ashy gray or light bluish-gray in color. Due to its thinness, beech bark can be vulnerable to sunscald, fire, and people carving their initials into the tree. Contrary to the bark, American Beech wood is hard, strong, and light or dark red. The American Beech flowers appear in April and May alongside its leaves; nuts, enclosed in a bristly husk, are apparent in the fall.
Habitat:  The American Beech is the only species of beech found in North America. It is extremely shade tolerant and can grow in a multitude of soil conditions from sand to clay, moist to dry, and acidic to basic. However, the American Beech grows best and is most abundant in mesic environments which contain moderate amounts of moisture. These sites include the hemlock northern hardwood forests of Northern Michigan and the beech-sugar maple forests of Southern Michigan, like the forest that makes up our Ecosystem Preserve.
Interesting Facts:  Beech wood has served many purposes such as flooring, furniture, tool handles, woodenwares, railroad ties, and more. In fact, because of its elasticity, it was once used to make all wood clothespins. Nuts of the American Beech are also used by humans for food-related purposes, and are an especially valuable food source for wildlife such as muskrats, squirrels, chipmunks, and wild turkeys.

Be a Good Neighbor:

A major bark disease of the American Beech, Beech Bark Disease (BBD), has been found in the United States since 2000, and more recently has spread to the Grand Rapids area. The disease stems from tiny beech scale insects (Cryptococcus fagisuga) that feed on the sap of the inner bark. This causes injuries that enable three species of Nectria fungi to enter and eventually girdle the tree. Whole beech tree communities can be erased by this disease. To help prevent the spread of BBD, refrain from moving firewood, and if you suspect infestation, e-mail or call the DNR. Learn more about beech bark disease and what you can do to help.

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Unplugged: Connecting with Nature

UnbeLEAFable Art Projects. With autumn upon us, trees all around are soon to be ablaze with fiery shades of oranges, yellows, and reds. Take time to appreciate this natural beauty by getting outdoors and collecting some of these leaves for fall-time projects. There are a variety of fun leaf crafts for those young and older.

Leafy Greeting Cards. Take the kids on a leaf hike to collect some of their favorite colored leaves. Press the leaves between the pages of a thick phone book. Once the leaves have had a week or so to flatten and dry, have the kids remove them and glue them onto folded construction paper to make “Happy Fall” greeting cards.

Leaf Wreaths. Cut the center out of a paper plate or piece of circular cardboard. Using pressed leaves, have kids glue various colored and shaped leaves onto the paper plate ring. Allow to dry and then hang your fall wreath on the fridge or front door.

Sun-catchers.  Begin with a piece of wax paper and trace a leaf outline using a sharpie marker. A portion at a time, paint glue onto the leaf and then randomly place pieces of torn tissue paper onto the glue. Use various colors of tissue paper including reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. Once the leaf is fully covered and has had time to dry, cut out the leaf shapes, add a brown stem with construction paper, and hang on your windows.

Leaf Drawing and Doodling. For children or adults, collect leaves and press them for a couple of weeks. Then, using a metallic sharpie, doodle designs or draw pictures on the colorful leaves. Once finished, gloss over the leaves using Modge Podge and a paint brush, and allow them to dry. Feel free to string them with ribbon to use for Christmas ornaments or decorations around the house.

For more leaf art projects or other nature craft ideas, visit our Pinterest page.

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