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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

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 donít 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.

We donít have grant money to meet this need so we are turning to our friends to ask for your help. Many of you have donated your time to help us grow and install native plants to help restore the Plaster Creek watershed. Now we are asking for your financial assistance to help us build a new greenhouse. We have raised over $15,000 of the $20,000 needed by February 1 and gifts of any size would still be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $10, $50, $1000, or more will help us reach the goal! 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 in your year-end giving and know how much we appreciate your valuable partnership in this work to restore health and beauty to the Plaster Creek watershed. Thanks for your careful consideration.

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 Parkís 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 Qualityís Non-Point Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

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.



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