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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

Upcoming Fall Event

Connecting Urban Neighborhoods with their Creeks

Join us for a Plaster Creek Stewards' presentation on urban rain gardens. We will look at these important connections between healthy neighborhoods and healthy urban creeks. Next, we will share our research regarding which plants survive and thrive best in these curb-cut rain gardens. After this presentation we will head out to take action for watershed restoration by planting more curb cut rain gardens with native plants in the Oakdale and Alger Heights neighborhoods.

October 15, 2016
Calvin College, CFAC Recital Hall

*Don't forget to dress for the weather and bring your favorite pair of gloves and trowel if you have one (otherwise we have favorites we can share). 
*Also, let us know if you want to carpool with us to the garden sites when you RSVP!

Please let us know if you are able to come, we want to be sure to have plenty of scones and morning refreshments: RSVP

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 along the creek with native wetland vegetation. More complete information about the permitting process may be found here.

Floodplains are low lying areas that absorb stormwater, slowing it down and preventing erosion while creating habitat for aquatic and streamside creatures. Native plants play an important role by stabilizing banks and absorbing excess nutrients, while providing food and shelter for pollinators. Over time Shadyside Park has lost its floodplain which has resulted in downcutting of the stream channel, steeply eroding banks, the invasion of non-native species, and poor water quality. Plaster Creek water levels rise and fall rapidly in Shadyside Park following thaws or heavy rains. This "flashy" flow erodes the banks and introduces excessive sediment into the creek, creating unhealthy conditions in the park and in downstream communities. This project has been designed to address 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 a large number of Shadyside Park’s 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. We will be tree-spading in 30 large (8-inch diameter) trees as replacements. We estimate that an additional 120 trees will be removed further downstream, most of which are invasive or non-native and some are damaged or already dying due to the fluctuating dynamics of the stream. These trees will be replaced with native Michigan trees at a greater than 1:1 ratio. If nothing is done at Shadyside Park, many of its existing streamside trees will be lost to 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 the likelihood of flooding upstream of Hammond Avenue but will slightly decrease it. 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 a rock structure with a more stable log structure 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 done elsewhere in the state of Michigan and have met with great success.

The area around Plaster Creek in the park will be significantly 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 grasses, wildflowers 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. Partners for this project include: Plaster Creek Stewards (Calvin College), Kent County Parks, and Spicer Group.

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.

We are expanding this effort to the Oakdale neighborhood and are looking for willing homeowners in Oakdale and Alger Heights to have a rain garden in their parkway and agree to maintain it after a few years of support from Plaster Creek Stewards. If you are interested in one of these native gardens please 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.




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.



Upcoming Events