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Plaster Creek Stewards

A collaboration of Calvin College faculty, staff, and students working with local partners to restore Plaster Creek watershed.

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Education and outreach

Raising community awareness about the watershed through workshops, seminars, presentations, and volunteer workdays.

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Monitoring stream health through a research methods class, part of the Biology curriculum.

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Implementing on-the-ground habitat restoration throughout the watershed

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Plaster Creek Stewards

Working to restore health and beauty to the Plaster Creek Watershed

2018 Spring Event

Navigating the New Normal: Watershed Restoration in Context of Climate Change

Each Spring we gather with Plaster Creek enthusiasts to learn about and take action for the health and beauty of Plaster Creek watershed. Thanks to the many friends who came out on April 21st to plant a tree on Calvin's campus, make rain barrels, digs trees for potting, transplant 5,580 native seedlings, and repot saplings for the summer growth spurt. It is always encouraging to see people from all ages and neighborhoods coming together to learn and practice restoration. Stay connected for more events this summer and into the fall.

Get Growing! (volunteer opportunity)

Drop-in Mondays from 4:00pm-7:00pm or Fridays from 11:30am-5:00pm to our greenhouse on 3770 Lake Drive to learn about and help transplant some of the thousands of native plants needed in the restoration projects slated for this year and next. The native Michigan seedlings are ready to be transplanted to larger plug flats to grow their deep roots before being planted in rain gardens and native landscapes. These plants are important for filtering polluted stormwater, sequestering carbon, and providing diverse habitat for local pollinators and birds. Your help in the greenhouse is a vital step in producing the volume of plants needed for our projects in the Plaster Creek watershed each year. Drop-in and stay as your schedule allows, and bring a friend or two to catch up with while you care for our downstream neighbors. Questions or RSVP:

The Story of Plaster Creek Watershed

For an in-depth and interactive look at the our watershed, visit the Story of Plaster Creek Watershed and learn more about soils, landuses, issues that effect the water quality, and positve steps residents can take to help restore the watershed.

Giving Opportunity in Greenhouse Fund

greenhouse giving

Plaster Creek Stewards is outgrowing our greenhouse facilities! We are in desperate need of a new greenhouse to increase our capacity for growing native Michigan plants that are planted into green infrastructure projects in the Plaster Creek watershed. These greenhouses don’t just grow plants but future stewards. This is where college students, high school Green Team students and many visitors come and learn about native plants and the roles they play in purifying stormwater in our landscapes along with providing food and shelter for pollinators and birds. These students of all ages, just like the plants we grow, head out into the community to make our landscape more sustainable, a healthier place to live, work and worship--a watershed in the restoration process.

Thanks to 65+ individual donars, over $20,000 has been raised. We hope to build the new greenhouse this spring and are so grateful for the outpouring of support from the community for this work. There are still costs that will spring up, so it isn't too late for interested people to give. Contributions of $10, $50, $1000, or more will help us cover costs that will occur over time! You can donate online by visiting our secure online donation site.

Or if you prefer, checks can be made payable to Calvin College with "Plaster Creek Stewards" on the memo line and mailed to:

Calvin College Development Office
104 Youngsma Center
Calvin College
3201 Burton SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to Plaster Creek Stewards and know how much we appreciate your valuable partnership in this work to restore health and beauty to the Plaster Creek watershed. We will keep you posted as construction begins.

Curb-Cut Rain Gardens for Plaster Creek.

These gardens are vital to restoring the health of Plaster Creek by catching rainwater off the road that would otherwise run into the stream with warm, oftentimes polluted, water. The Michigan native plants we use in these gardens are adapted to absorb and filter this stormwater with their deep roots and increase local biodiversity by attracting pollinators.

Homeowners in Oakdale, Garfield Park, and Alger Heights, who are willing to have a rain garden in their parkway and agree to maintain it after a few years of support from Plaster Creek Stewards, should email us at and include your...
1. Name
2. Address
3. Phone
4. Length and width in feet of the parkway within your property line.
5. If there are any "obstacles" present in your parkway (tree, Fire hydrant, underground sprinklers utility pole etc...)

We look forward to hearing from you!


New Rain Garden Maintenance Guide.

This guide is used to help homeowners maintain their new curb-cut raingardens through our current grants, but there is useful information in here for any native gardener. Also, feel free to join our Facebook Group: Rain Garden Maintenance to post questions and learn about caring for your native landscaped rain garden.

Dutton Shadyside Park Streambank Restoration Project

Plaster Creek Stewards (Calvin College) and Kent County Parks have received a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to carry out a major restoration project which will improve the stream environment at Dutton Shadyside Park. The work will stabilize Plaster Creek's banks, decrease erosion, and create a safe, sustainable floodplain with native wetland vegetation. The color rendering above is not the final design. For complete information on the project and the permitting process, check the documents at the MI Waters website.

Floodplains are low lying areas that absorb stormwater, allowing it to spread out and slow down. This helps prevent erosion while creating healthy habitat for aquatic and streamside creatures. In a well-functioning floodplain, native plants play an important role by stabilizing banks and absorbing excess nutrients in the water, while providing food and shelter for pollinators. Shadyside Park no longer has a functioning floodplain. Over time the stream has cut a deep channel, resulting in steep eroding banks, the invasion of non-native species, and poor water quality with high levels of suspended sediments and excess nutrients. Plaster Creek water levels rise and fall rapidly in Shadyside Park following thaws or heavy rains. This "flashy" flow erodes the banks, creating unhealthy conditions in the park and in downstream communities. This project has been designed to resolve these problems.

In response to concerns raised during community education meetings and a public hearing, initial plans have been revised so that this project will better accommodate how Shadyside is enjoyed by park users.

One community concern raised was the removal of many of Shadyside Park’s large maple trees. In response to this concern, we have modified the plan and reduced the loss of large trees in the high use section of the park to 15. Many of these trees are damaged or already dying due to the fluctuating dynamics of the stream and will be replaced with 30 large trees requiring heavy equipment to plant. In addition, more than 120 smaller shade or evergreen trees that are native to Michigan will be planted through the project area, which will replace many invasive or non-native trees including box elders, willows, and other species. If nothing is done at Shadyside Park, many of its existing streamside trees will be lost to continued erosion and flooding.

Another community concern raised was space for dog agility training groups to continue using Shadyside Park. We have revised the plans to preserve the space needed once construction and re-seeding has taken place. Dog agility trials will be able to continue being held at Shadyside Park as they have in the past.

Concern for upstream flooding was also raised by area residents. Upstream-downstream hydrology models were reviewed and vetted by multiple engineers who all agree the project will not increase flooding upstream of Hammond Avenue. In fact, the hydrology models show that upstream flooding risk will be slightly reduced once this work has been completed. This project will not make upstream residents more vulnerable to flooding.

Questions were also raised about the original cross vane design, with concerns that rocks might be moved by children or strong currents. The plan was modified to replace the proposed rock structure with a more stable log structure that will be anchored in place to enhance permanence and safety.

This site was selected because it is public land, it is in the upstream reaches of the Plaster Creek watershed, and the benefits will not only be realized on site but also conveyed to those living downstream of Shadyside Park. Projects like these have been completed elsewhere in the state of Michigan with great success.

The area around Plaster Creek in the park will be disrupted while construction is taking place, with exposed soils and heavy machinery. As soon as the work is done, we will seed and plant the affected areas to start the process of re-vegetating with native wildflowers, grasses, and trees. It may take a few growing seasons to recover, but the end result will be a beautiful floodplain benefiting park users and wildlife while improving the scenic quality and safety of the park.

This project has been funded wholly or in part through Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Non-Point Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.




Read our Newsletter!Fall 2011 Newsletter


Love thy Downstream Neighbor: From Plaster Creek to the St. Lawrence River

Our fall event was Saturday, September 22 10:00am-12:30pm at the Bunker Interpretive Center.

View photos from the project or check out images from the presentation here, and view news coverage here.



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