Nature

By Ingrid Sjostrand

WHILE HAZEL PARK IS ON THE RISE ECONOMICALLY, it’s important to remember the environmental areas that benefit our community too. Natural spaces help wildlife and create a more aesthetically-pleasing city, which is why the Hazel Park Nature Initiative (HPNI) is working hard to make sure there is green growth added to the area.

Created by Amy Aubry, Hazel Park Mayor Pro Tem, and Grace Vatai, Executive Director and Naturalist of Mulberry Hill Wildlife, the Nature Initiative focuses on creating and restoring native green spaces in Hazel Park through four tenets – habitat creation, land management, education and community.

“We plan to create habitat and natural space in the city for the benefit of both wildlife and residents. Wildlife will benefit from things like native wildflower beds, pollinator gardens and lawn alternatives,” Vatai says. “Residents will benefit from increased beautification of our city through aesthetically appealing natural spaces, as well as opportunities to learn about and implement natural practices in their own yards.”

The idea for the Nature Initiative came when Vatai and Aubry found they had a shared love for the environment, and both recognized a lack of natural space in Hazel Park. After further discussion, they found there was community interest too.

“Nature helps ground us and promote well-being it’s good for us to be around,” Aubry says. “Increasing native landscaping and habitats will give residents more opportunities to see our diverse flora and fauna and help them flourish while receiving their own benefits in return. The Nature Initiative will also enrich our parks, streetscapes, and overall community.”

The HPNI has produced a few presentations at the Hazel Park Library to educate and encourage interest, including Bat Week and Native People, Native Plants programs. Bigger projects are in the works as well, including one that will encompass habitat creation, land management, education and community.

“We are currently developing a new natural area in Hazel Park which will contain native plant beds including a pollinator garden, woodland garden, native wildflowers and more,” Vatai says. “This will provide habitat for beneficial wildlife and also educational opportunities for everyone in Hazel Park by creating a place for people to come and learn about nature through direct experience.”

Vatai and Aubry encourage residents to join the Initiative and offer various opportunities to get involved including helping care for the gardens or providing donations. They will also be holding public events for residents’ feedback on the HPNI.

“When the time comes to address our City ordinances, City Council will vote on the proposed changes. We will hold public hearings where residents are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and questions on the changes suggested, as well as offer up suggestions of their own,” Aubry says. “In addition, we will have lots of opportunities for resident participation: Come to fun, educational classes, volunteer at events such as plantings, or jump all-in and replace your grass with native plants on your property.”

“The Hazel Park Nature Initiative is one small step we can take that can have a big impact when we work together. By restoring food sources for wildlife and pollinators we can help creatures like the monarch butterflies and bees thrive,” Aubry says. “This life is bigger than ourselves – I’ve always been a bigger-picture kind of person and taking care of our surroundings is part of that bigger picture.”

“Being in nature is a spiritual experience. No matter who you are or what your beliefs are, there is a certain undeniable connectedness that reveals itself if you allow yourself to truly ‘be’ in nature,” Vatai adds. “Co-authoring the Hazel Park Nature Initiative is a fulfilling experience. Every human being deserves to experience the joy of living fully in a naturally beautiful place, and I believe that beauty is possible right here in Hazel Park.”

For more information or to keep up to date on events, visit facebook.com/hpnatureinitiative.

0 494

By Sara E. Teller

THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB WAS FOUNDED IN 1931 as a way for gardeners of all abilities to connect around a shared love for gardening and to share that love with the Ferndale community. The FGC officially joined Michigan Garden Clubs in 1951. The Club includes members of all skill levels, from those with exceptional green thumbs to those just getting started.

“What we all have in common is a love for plants and the creatures that inhabit a healthy garden,” said Dominic Scappaticci, President of the Club.

Club members hope to inspire others in the community to try their hand at horticulture. They also hope to spread their love for natural, clean ways of carrying out their craft.

“We promote sustainable and ecological-minded gardening practices that will keep our natural world beautiful, healthy, and alive for future generations,” said Scappaticci. “We also promote gardening practices that encourage native birds and insects to call our community home.”

AS PART OF THIS MISSION, the Ferndale Garden Club hosts a number of events in and around the area throughout the year, such as the Think Spring Garden event that was just held on February 23rd. The event offered a chance for those with green thumbs to start preparing for the upcoming season. It included a seed swap, exhibits by local gardening groups, and information about the importance of pollinator-friendly plants.

Other upcoming events include a presentation titled “Weeds: Useful and Edible” by Ed Blondin from Hortulus Garden & Landscapes, which will take place at the March 14 monthly meeting held at the Gerry Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois, 7:00-8:30 P.M., as well as a native plant presentation that will kick-off the April 11 meeting.

The Club created a public garden at the corner of Livernois and Oakridge for the enjoyment of everyone in and around Ferndale. Members continually maintain the space, ensuring it stays alive and well. Gardening-themed books have also been distributed to the local elementary school by Club members so budding gardeners can get their start as early as possible.

In fact, students interested in horticulture may just get a helping hand to pursue their passion. “Every year the Garden Club awards a scholarship to a graduating Ferndale High student,” Scappaticci said. “We have awarded a scholarship every year since 1989.”

He explained, “We donate gardening and ecology-themed books to the elementary school. At our monthly meetings, we host speakers on a variety of gardening topics as well as offer a chance for gardeners to connect and trade plants, seeds, tools, and house plants. Recent speaker topics have been about raising chickens in Ferndale, propagation of house plants, using native plants in our landscapes, urban beekeeping, and more. And best of all, we offer homemade treats for all attendees!” Scappaticci added, “We also go on field trips! Our last field trip in October was to the roof of the public library to see the living roof.”

TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB, the only requirement is a love for gardening and a nominal annual fee which covers the cost of all of the Club’s activities.

“We have yearly dues of $20,” Scappaticci explained. “The dues help cover costs of speakers, programs, garden maintenance, and scholarships. We are a registered 501c)(3) nonprofit.”

Meetings are held the second Thursday of every month, 7:00-8:30 P.M. at the Kulick Center. More information is available online:

www.facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub •

Instagram: @theferndalegardenclub •

By Sarah E. Teller

VERY RECENTLY, THERE WERE FOUR NEARLY LIFE-SIZED STATUES OF GIRAFFES standing in the last of Ferndale’s large green spaces adjacent to the controversial Pinecrest Holdings mixed housing development that’s been underway for quite some time.

Nearby, a sign read: “Giraffes are the first to flee danger. A developer wants to clearcut the woods, dig up the soil/contamination will spread over our homes and FHS students. Save our last green space!” Not long after being placed, however, the statues and the sign were removed by local law enforcement.

According to the artist and sculptor responsible for the message (who wishes to remain anonymous), “Giraffes are the first critters to flee an area when there’s severe strife. It goes back to a native, mythological belief that because of their long necks, giraffes can see trouble before it happens. They can see into the future and know when something’s coming.”

He said he wanted to make a statement about eliminating the city’s last green space, especially because he considers himself a “friend to the environment” and uses only natural materials in his art.

“There were four giraffes altogether – a mom, dad, and two kids. Police cut down the sign. The little ones are gone. The mom and dad have been knocked down. All in all, I have about four months of work in it and $350, including 37 yards of fabric, some jute cord, 200 feet of chicken wire, and spray paint. As a nature lover, this green space is important to me. There are old trees there that will be cut down. The developer said they’re going to save as many trees a possible, but what does that mean? Before you know it, they’ll just say they couldn’t save anything.”

URBAN PLANNING MASTER’S DEGREE CANDIDATE, Leah Deasy, provided some additional insight into the status of the development project. “Process-wise, I believe the City has received application materials from the developer, Pinecrest Holdings LLC, seeking site plan approval for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on the two parcels south of the high school on Pinecrest. The last word from City staff was that these materials are in the process of being reviewed. They have not yet been made public.” She added, “Pending completion of the application and staff review, the PUD formal application could come before the Planning Commission for a vote on December 5 or 19. Before a vote, the Planning Commission will take public comment on the project. If approved by the Planning Commission, the PUD moves on to City Council for approval.”

Jordan Twardy, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Ferndale, confirmed, “The project team is currently responding to feedback from their last appearance at the Planning Commission in July 2018 as well as the recent community meeting in October 2018. Critical next steps include a more detailed site plan and a development agreement. If those pieces are completed by the developers and submitted to the City, they could appear before the Planning Commission.”

NOT ALL RESIDENTS ARE PLEASED, HOWEVER. “I would say that there has been a lot of concern from residents on the environmental conditions of the site,” said Deasy. “Residents are very concerned, thoughtful and deliberate. We want to know exactly what risks we are facing from contaminants at the site currently and what risks we could be exposed to by disrupting it. What I’ve observed so far is that residents still have so many unanswered questions that they don’t feel anyone has enough information yet to responsibly make a decision of this magnitude.”

She continued, “The community also feels hurt by the misdeeds of past landowners at this site – Ethyl Corporation using the forest as a dumping ground for trash and chemicals and the needless destruction of Ferndale’s only Albert Kahn-designed house, circa 2012. It is a hard pill to swallow to think that no one can be held responsible for past actions at this site and that we have little choice but to consent to more destruction for its future.”

The local artist added, “The developer is not being specific about the plans. This is another big problem I have with this. They’re not being honest with us or the City, and the City says it’s private property so they can do anything they want.”

A group of concerned individuals, who’ve coined themselves the Southwest Neighborhood Association, has formed in order to discuss the issues at hand. “There was a meeting with the City. The City is not interested in a parcel of land, and Pinecrest Holdings LLC doesn’t own the land, they only have an option to buy. Just come out and be honest with us – no ifs, ands or buts.”

Deasy explained, “There is clear consensus from residents, however, that any development should be concentrated on the south portion of the site and that the forest area towards the mid-north end of the site should be preserved for the benefit of the community. We desire to see dense, walkable, mixed-use development on the 8 Mile frontage of the property, at the corner of 8 Mile and Pinecrest, and for the 15 acres of forest to remain intact. We’d like the nature that has made this site its home to stay and want the process of bio-remediation that has already started onsite to continue. We think if the developer would think more ‘innovatively’ about the relationship between current and future land use onsite and the value of the ecosystem services already in existence there, we could have something really special.”

Twardy addressed this concern. “The project, if approved as a PUD, will require the preservation of a significant number of old growth trees as well as the provision of north-south and east-west pathways for public use throughout the site,” he said. “In response to public feedback, the developers will also be looking at ways to increase the size and accessibility of open green space and wooded areas. Additionally, space is being set aside –currently proposed for the eastern portion of the site – for a defined public space, which, if the project is approved, would be designed with public input.”

THE ANONYMOUS ARTIST SAID, “There’s a large herd of deer there, coyotes, and it’s home to owls and a couple of species of bats that are endangered. It’s a beautiful place. It really is. It’s been astounding, and it will be heart-wrenching to have it all paved. The City is trying to get revenue generation and tax money, I get it. But it will also cost us money, in additional police and fire resources. And, imagine if you clear-cut everything. Then, it’s August and hasn’t rained in a month to a month and a half. The contamination will scatter, and we’ll all be breathing it and brushing it off our furniture. The students will all breathe it in.”

Addressing clean-up concerns, Twardy said, “The project will be required to, prior to any construction, clean up all contamination in accordance with applicable state and federal environmental standards. The entire site will be required to be cleaned up prior to any development activity. The applicable standards for cleanup also have provisions for ensuring the continued safety of all adjacent and nearby properties. The result would be a situation that is safer and cleaner for the property and surrounding neighborhoods than currently exists today.”

He added, “Additionally, separate from the developer’s efforts, the City has approved funding of up to $20,000 to perform an environmental concerns inventory for the site. We are in the process of also seeing if grant funds can be used to pay for the study. Our goal is to have the study completed in time for the project’s return to the Planning Commission or, at the latest, by the time the project goes forward to City Council for final approval, which would only occur if the Planning Commission were to approve it.”

As far as her personal thoughts regarding the development, Deasy, too, is concerned about the wildlife. “Myself, I often think about the deer. I’m partial to deer and having them intermingled within our city suburbs thrills me. I think that’s something really special to Michigan and Metro Detroit – that we have so many deer and that they are welcome and enjoyed alongside our neighborhoods in places like Troy, Rochester Hills and Farmington Hills,” she said. “A lot of the people focus on the trees on this site – and they are huge and amazing, but they also provide a habitat for deer and this is the only place I know of in Ferndale where deer live. When we remove the last deer habitat in the city, we are unequivocally stating that wildlife is not welcome in Ferndale. I also think the destruction of this forest will have a negative impact on our air quality, heat index and storm water retention that we do not fully understand.”

She added that the communal power of local residents shouldn’t be discounted or ignored. “Regardless of the outcome of this specific site development, neighbors have bonded together to build community. We’ve met and become familiar with people on our blocks and across our corner of the city and Royal Oak Township. We’ve organized a neighborhood association that we intend to formalize by seeking guidance from more established organizations and to continue working to make our awesome community even better. We are working together to harness our communal power and we have lots of ideas.”

By: Ingrid Sjostrand

AS COMPOSTING BECOMES A MORE POPULAR AND NECESSARY TOPIC, FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO SEE NATURE GIVE THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THE PROCESS.

“Composting is earth’s natural way of recycling organic materials into soil. It is happening 24-7,” Tim Campbell of Midtown Composting explains. “If you go in the woods in the fall, the leaves drop, they compost over winter and spring, and in the summer vegetation grows. The leaves that were dropping, nature turned that back into soil, it’s a cycle that repeats forever.”

A good reason to start considering composting your own waste is that Midtown Composting is expanding to more homes and businesses in Ferndale and Royal Oak. Started in Detroit’s West Village in September 2017 as a part of an EcoWorks Youth Energy Squad Project, a year later Midtown Composting is now working with 45 businesses and 60 residences.

“The Youth Energy Squad takes Detroit youth through projects related to community, some related to sustainability,” Campbell, a member of the project, says. Once the summer program ended, there was still an interest in the community but no one to manage it so Campbell took on the task.

“It started with five restaurants in West Village, and now we are across this whole city of Detroit and southern Oakland County,” he says. “It’s grown like a wildfire and is still growing. We just added another driver and another vehicle.”

SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS COMPOSTING?“ Instead of hauling something away as trash, such as fruit and vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds – composting uses nature’s process to turn it back into soil so it can be grown into more food, and the cycle continues.”

Midtown has helped one restaurant completely eliminate dumpster services, and created a composting culture in the Detroit neighborhoods of the West Village and Corktown. They’ve added coffee grounds and brewery waste to their pickup, as well. Campbell says other cities, like Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and New York, have been composting for years, and Detroit is missing out.

“Our goal is to create a culture of zero waste by managing waste in a sustainable, responsible way that here in Detroit we are so behind in,” he says.

“It’s to help facilitate the growth of urban farmers, sourcing up locally grown produce, helping businesses save money in waste disposal. Our main goal is to provide the service that is missing. A lot of people want to compost but there is no one there to do it, so we are here to do that.”

They have relationships with urban farms in Detroit and Pontiac, where they deliver the composted materials, and are experimenting with produce delivery from the farms to local residences, similar to programs like Shipt that big box stores are doing.

“People can actually order fresh, organic, Detroit-grown produce, and have it delivered to their front door during compost pickups,” Campbell says. “It keeps the money closer to home, supports the community, less wear and tear on the roads, less fuel. The average piece of food travels 1500 miles from where it’s produced to where it’s eaten.”

WHILE THEY CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD on plans for the future, Midtown Composting has experienced some challenges in their first year – like the side effects of composting including smell and bugs. Campbell isn’t concerned and considers these typical of the growing pains of any new business and solvable through education.

“When you implant composting in a place where it’s a foreign concept, people don’t know what it is,” he says. “There has to be an educational component –what this is and why there is a need for it.”

“What we need is for the whole community to help expand the culture. We need to educate each other, tell your friends, tell your neighbors,” he says. “We’re saying this is a problem – for the earth, for our community, for society – and this is a practical solution to address it. If you’re not interested at least you’re aware. We can’t ask for anything more.”

If you are interested in composting at your home or business, email midtowncomposting@gmail.com. For $12 per month, they’ll deliver a resealable bin and compostable bag to your home and schedule regular pickups.

By Jill Lorie Hurst

RECENTLY, I WALKED THROUGH THE HEROES MEMORIAL GARDEN IN FERNDALE’S GEARY PARK WITH GORDON MATSON. Matson is a native Ferndalian, a newlywed and mascot of Ferndale Pride. Getting to know him was a bonus! He met up with me to explain a little bit of the history attached to the recently-refurbished garden.

Matson was a neighbor of the Mahan family, who lived across from the site of the garden. It wasn’t a garden then. There were actually two houses standing where the garden is now. Once the park was established, Joe and Barbara Mahan began gardening a small area. They’d bring out their wagon and garden tools, and little by little they developed what is now the Heroes Memorial Garden. They established it as a memorial garden in 2001, after 9/11.

When the Mahans passed away about four years ago, Matson promised their daughter Tracy he’d take responsibility for the upkeep of the garden – a tough project. When neighbor Carol Jackson got acquainted with the garden, she saw its potential and was sad to see it had fallen into disarray. She and Gordon reached out to the community. There were volunteers but more help was needed, so Jackson took it to the City Council. Once she connected to the Council’s Dan Martin she knew help was on the way, but the real moment of joy came when Carlos Kennedy of the Department of Public Works called to tell her they’d designated 10 workers to the project. One of the DPW team lived in the neighborhood and had seen her working in the garden, and mentioned to his co-workers that there was “a lady out there pulling weeds.” They were happy to help.

Along with DPW Director Kennedy, the team consists of supervisor Rocky Cooper, Ty Lewis, Zack Hreha, Charles Taube, Derek Radell, Carl Cartel, Jose Ramirez, Holly Hindley and Drake Hreha. Jackson was amazed by their great work. “They put so much thought into everything. Repurposed whatever they found” And she was grateful. “I thank you and my back thanks you”. When the first part of the job was finished, a delicious catered lunch from Christine’s Cuisine was delivered to the team.

The DPW will continue to do a large part of the planting and cleanup necessary to maintain the heroes Memorial Garden. There will be more benches, footpaths, and the small butterfly garden that exists near the street will be moved to the center of the garden and expanded. Next Memorial Day there will be a picnic to celebrate the work and remember the heroes honored by the words ”All Gave Some, Some Gave All.”

Matson and Jackson are relieved and delighted. Matson: “I want to keep it (the garden) going for Joe and Barbara and the Mahan family” Adds Jackson “The DPW worked so damn hard. The story is about them and the wonderful, collaborative city we live in.” We can still pitch in to help keep the Heroes Memorial Garden the serene and beautiful place it is today. Every little bit helps. Matson “If you walk by and see a weed, pull it up”. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Look at what Joe and Barbara Mahan started with a wagon and a few garden tools.

Check out the Heroes Memorial Garden on Facebook, or in person, in the Northwest corner of Geary Park in Ferndale.

By Rebecca Hammond

 

LAST SPRING I BOUGHT A BEE HOUSE AT ALDI, being Aldi-priced into an impulse buy I didn’t really think would pan out. And last summer I was right. Although an occasional firefly hung out during the day, no bees showed any interest.

This May, mason bees found the house and got to work, and were as engrossing as birds at the feeder. They spent about a month filling almost every cavity, each now containing 4 or 5 larvae, each plugged with mud. The bees will not emerge until next summer. I noticed that they didn’t work in any form of bad weather. Maybe they have a union.

I recently watched a mother squirrel trying to get a half-grown offspring into a nest cavity in a silver maple. She crossed the street looking like she was wearing a fur stole, and ran up the maple, to spend long minutes stuffing the young squirrel into a hole it had no interest in entering. I was certain the hole was simply too small (she reminded me of a back-packer trying to get a sleeping bag into a stuffsack) but once the baby was in, she went in, too. Days later, small squirrels spent hours playing near that hole. Why that one young squirrel left the nest so early, and even crossing the street, I’ll never know, but it didn’t escape Mom. Our big, beautiful trees are wildlife assets. Our big oaks, especially, not only provide wildlife housing, but caterpillars that feed birds and their broods.

We have a bird house that has sheltered chickadees for almost 30 years, and they need thousands of caterpillars for each brood. We don’t, as recommended, remove the old nest each year, but we did have to repair a wooden house nearby, and found inside a perfect bagel-shape of cat fur and moss, fur from our 22-year-old cat Gizzie (we put the winter’s fur combed from her out every March), moss from who knows where.

So when spring cleanup at our cabin left us with a sheet of moss removed from a concrete step, a furthering of the habitat here seemed possible. Just bring the moss home, tear it up, press it down and keep it watered for awhile, right? Wrong. Robins, even in our fairly moss-free world, knew from the get-go that worms live under moss, and they tossed it around as they do leaves. I refuse to be thwarted by robins, so began holding the moss down with rocks, then poultry staples, 3-inch common nails with “washers” cut from a hummus lid, and finally T pins. All this does is make robins more creative. I now have hundreds of tiny pieces of moss that I hope soon become uninteresting. Online recommendations for getting moss started include putting moss in a blender (!!!) with water and buttermilk, and dumping the slurry here and there. This just seems mean to moss, possibly necessitating a Society for the Protection against Cruelty to Moss. But maybe the person who dreamed this up had robins.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVEN’T SEEN A NEIGHBORHOOD RAT since about 2015, they are still abundant in parts of Ferndale, and the Ferndale Rat Patrol dispenses advice and encouragement. Group leader Laura Mikulski messaged me this: “As a grassroots community group, we came together after a Ferndale neighborhood group met with the city and weren’t satisfied by the information from the pest control company the city brought in to address how to eliminate rats. They offered poison in heavy bait boxes as the only solution besides typical preventative measures. Myself and several founding members of the group had been trapping effectively for years, and decided coordinating efforts would be a more holistic, environmentally conscious way of eliminating rats.”

Why no poisons? “Because the second-generation anticoagulants are being proven to kill pets and wildlife over long periods of time. While pest control companies say that lethal doses of bromadiolone is impossibly big to achieve death of a pet, the sad fact is that second-generation poison bio-accumulates within animals, and eventually kills them. In wildlife populations studied in California, they’re finding that the poison can last eight months in the liver of animals, giving predators and pets alike ample time to consume more than one rat, and really skewing the possibility toward eventually poisoning. Due to predator secondary poisoning, rat populations flourish unabated. Remove the predators, and rats can repopulate ad nauseum.” I’m hearing screech owls, and neighbor Dan Tanner just got a wonderful shot of one taking off from a power line, and I concur. Let the predators live.

Erika Sandberg added a cautionary tale on the Rat Patrol Facebook page: “We don’t use poison, yet my dog still got into some. Other than a stressful afternoon and an unplanned vet bill, everything should be fine. But if I hadn’t witnessed her grabbing the poison, my dog probably would’ve eaten the whole thing and started unexplainably bleeding a few days from now. Thank you for discouraging the use of poison. I for one really appreciate your efforts. Poison is a selfish means of pest control as it impacts so many more than just the intended target.”

This is a banner year for monarch butterflies, both in numbers people are seeing, and in those planting milkweed and raising caterpillars indoors (where they are much more likely to survive). Raising monarchs is easy and close to foolproof. Some of the happiest people I know at this moment are currently raising their first families of caterpillars, and sharing the experience on social media. If you want plants, eggs, or caterpillars, find the Ferndale.

Rebecca Hammond lives with her husband Phil on their mini-sanctuary in Ferndale.

THE FERNDALE RAT PATROL was formed late in the Summer of 2017 by Ferndale resident Laura Mikulski and associates after a City of Ferndale meeting about our rat problem. Citizens were left distraught over the City’s inability to deal with Ferndale’s growing rat problem. Due to legalities, costs, manpower, etc., the only option the Council could offer was to continue down their present path of action –hiring exterminators.

These concerned citizens met again shortly after, the City was not involved, and the Ferndale Rat Patrol was born. Their aim is simple: Rid our city of rats through the power of community.

The FRP differs vastly from conventional pest control services. The FRP does not use poison. Instead, there is a focus on community support, education and outreach involved: Neighbors talking to neighbors, and neighbors collaborating with each other.

The FRP is unique in that they are a community-based, volunteer organization. All members chose to be involved in the FRP, whether actively or passively. They share knowledge, ideas, methods and sometimes even equipment. The FRP’s operations affect the city of Ferndale in a variety of ways. Laura Mikulski chatted with Ferndale Friends about the Ferndale Rat Patrol.

FF: When and how did FRP come into existence?
Laura Mikulski: The FRP came into being after the Wilson Park Neighbor-hood Group, on the East side of Ferndale, approached the City looking for a rat control solution. The City set up a sort of townhall meeting, bringing in our code enforcement and a pest control company to explain how to control rats. Our code enforcement officer explained that proper rat control begins with keeping a clean yard and adhering to ordinance. Most in attendance already understood this, and personally kept their yards clean. Almost everyone knew someone in their neighborhood with a yard that contributed to the rat issue, but none were sure how to address it besides reporting to code enforcement-a sticky subject at best, since it can ruin relationships with neighbors if word gets out that you reported them.
The pest control company in attendance offered one solution: poison. This infuriated residents who had pets poisoned by dead rats, as well as those who had owl populations diminish due to poisoning. When it became clear that the city wouldn’t take an active hand in ridding the city of the rats currently in town, a group lingered behind to discuss solutions and community organization.

FF: What is the aim of the FRP? How does FRP differ from other pest control services?
The group is intended for those ready to take action to reduce the rat problem in the city, and to dispel the taboo of discussing the significant rat issues the city is facing. We intend to use methods that are not detrimental to the overall health of the environment (minimizing, if not eliminating the use of poisons). This group is intended for those that are ready to take action and learn, not to blame, complain and wait for others to do something. We are not a pest control service – we’re a grassroots organization of citizens and neighbors who perform outreach to educate on what drives the rat population, help eliminate rat habitat, and empower homeowners to remove rats effectively and manage their property to eliminate the rat population.

FF: What makes FRP unique? How does FRP affect the city of Ferndale?
The Ferndale Rat Patrol is unique in that it’s a collaborative effort to control the rat population in the city without relying on pest control companies or code enforcement. This is a citizen-empowering-citizen movement to depopulate and control rats, where we seek to help each other rather than place blame or look for others to fix the problem. It affects Ferndale in a huge way: Less poisons are being used, less rats are running rampant.

FF: What is the future of FRP? What are your goals?
Our goal is to safely reduce the rat population, always. Ideally, there would be none. They’re non-native, wildly destructive, and pathogenic. Additionally, conventional means of depopulating rats increase risk of secondary poisoning and death to pets and predators, something we’re staunchly against, and through education have reduced. It truly takes massive community involve-ment to make this happen on such a wide scale, and our group is growing daily. It’s become less and less taboo to discuss incidences of rat and meth-ods of extermination, which makes it easier to share knowledge and help without the embarrassment or stigma of having rats. People are waking up to the idea that this isn’t just a problem for a few people. It’s a city-wide issue that can only be resolved through coordinated effort.

Last year we did a “clean sweep” by performing outreach, and asking those who saw dead rats, evidence of rat, or killed rats personally to report in through a survey tool. In one month, September 2016, we tracked 437 rat kills, 257 which were snap traps that we recommended. We saw a major reduction in population that’s held strong through early 2017, and just rose again in September of this year. We’ve been tracking since about mid-month August, and have well over 200 rat kills accounted for through smart trapping through-out the city. We also created a flyer that we distribute when performing outreach so that neighbors can spread the word and we can reach those who might not be home with tips on how to eradicate rats in their neighborhood.

Laura Mikulski be presenting on rats, and rat prevention and elimination at the Ferndale Garden Club meeting on December 14. The FRP is also trying to organize a get-together fundraiser (since this is all funded personally). Anyone interested should tune into our Facebook group for details:
www.facebook.com/groups/968411293270256/ ( login required).

By: Ingrid Sjostrand

A 65-GALLON GREEN RECYCLING CART HAS SHOWN UP ON your curb and, well… every other curb in the neighborhood. Where did it come from? What can be recycled in it? Is there a cost?

While the debate over the benefits and negatives of these carts is growing hot, I went to the source for the basics. Colette Farris, organization development manager at SOCRRA
(Southeastern Oakland Resource Recovery Administration), gave me all the details you need to know about the cart program.

SOCRRA is a municipal corporation responsible for recycling, trash and yard waste in 12 member com-munities in metro Detroit. Founded in the 1950s, it covers the cities of Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birming-ham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Troy.

The carts have been delivered to almost 100,000 single-family households in these cities and are meant for mixed recycling, which means there is no longer a need to sort your recyclables prior to pick up.
“SOCRRA is currently constructing a new Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to enable us to process mixed recycling, which is connected to the timing of distributing the carts. The new equipment has the technology to automate the sorting of materials instead of hand sorting.” Farris says. “This change means that neither the residents nor the drivers of the recycling trucks need to presort before delivering recyclables to our MRF.”

While the carts do allow for mixed recyclables, there are still some limits to what can be put curbside and what needs to be dropped off at SOCRRA’s recycling center.

“Two changes were made to what we collect curbside – batteries are no longer accepted curbside and the only metal that can go in the carts are cans and empty aerosol cans,” Farris says. “These, along with Styrofoam and plastic bags can be brought to the SOCRRA drop off center for recycling.”

All carts were delivered with informational paperwork breaking down the details, but paper, cartons, cans, glass and plastic jugs, bottles and containers are all acceptable materials. Cardboard can be recycled in carts too, it just has to be broken down into three-foot by three-foot pieces. (Some bins were distributed with incorrect instructions which humorously stated three inches instead of three feet).

Distribution of carts started in July, and was completed on September 8th at no cost to residents. Prompt-ed by an initiative by Gov. Snyder to double recycling within the next two years, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was able to purchase the arts through grant funding from nonprofit The Recycling Partnership.

“The goal is to increase recycling rates in our communities and we didn’t want the cost of the cart to be an obstacle in achieving this goal,” Farris says.

So far, the carts seem to be making a difference. In August, 2,017 tons of recyclables were collected compared to 1,733 tons in August 2016 – a 16 per cent increase. Farris only expects this number to increase now that all carts have been delivered.

SOCRRA encourages everyone to try the carts for two or three months but for those that decide not to keep theirs, they will take them back. The old bins being replaced by carts are for residents to keep, but can be returned to the recycling center also.

Most feedback SOCRRA has received has been positive but Farris encourages residents to reach out with any comments or questions. Contact SOCRRA at socrra@socrra.org, check out their web site, www.socrra.org, or call the administrative office (248) 288-5150 if you have specific questions about recycling.

Story by: Sara E. Teller

FERNDALE RESIDENTS AND THOSE IN SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES may be noticing public awareness signs that feature mosquitos popping up in their neighborhoods. What’s this all about, and is there cause for concern?

The signs are meant to announce the potential for mosquitos to carry the West Nile Virus (WNV). WNV is most often spread to humans after they are bit by an infected insect. The infected mosquito carries the virus after biting a bird with WNV.

While most who are infected with WNV will experience little to no symptoms, the virus can cause illness and even death. Approximately one in 150 people infected will develop severe illness. Symptoms of the severe version can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

Up to 20 per cent of people who become infected with WNV will display some symptoms within three to 14 days, including fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or treatment for WNV. Illness may last weeks to months, even in healthy persons. Those who are symptomatic may require intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care. Severe cases require hospitalization. Pregnant women are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention if they develop symptoms that could be linked to the virus.

The Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) leads the county’s proactive response against the risks posed by WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases, such as the Zika virus. “We have had a WNV prevention plan since 2003,” said Johanna Cassise of the OCHD. There were recently three confirmed cases of WNV in Michigan, including those in Montcalm County, as well as Oakland and Macomb Counties.

“Whenever mosquitoes are active, there is a risk of getting WNV. The risk is highest from late July through September,” Johanna explained. “Currently, one confirmed case of WNV in Oakland County this year.”

The Oakland County Health Division administers funding allocated by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to employ preventative efforts in conjunction with the county’s 62 cities, villages, and townships (CVTS). “These funds are allocated to participating CVTs and support OCHD’s WNV prevention plan aimed at public education about personal protection and reduction of mosquito breeding habitats,” said Johanna.

This year, 45 CVTs have joined the Health Division in implementing protective measures designed to educate residents on the potential harm of WNV. Almost $200 thousand dollars, the amount that is allocated annually for prevention activities, will be distributed among those participating. The funds will pay for:

● Larviciding municipal catch basins to eliminate mosquito larvae and halt reproduction.
● Distributing personal-use mosquito repellent at outdoor community events.
● Implementing public-awareness campaigns about protecting against WNV and controlling mosquitos. Funding through Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) enhanced educational messaging throughout the county.

Part of the current public awareness campaign includes signs featuring Know the Buzz. “Signs were distributed to interested CVTs participating in the reimbursement program and the Oakland County Senior Advisory Council,” Johanna said. “City of Ferndale is one of the municipalities displaying the signs.”

THE OCHD RECOMMENDS SEVERAL WAYS TO PREVENT WNV. “The best way to prevent WNV infection is to prevent mosquito bites,” according to Johanna.

To best protect against bites, residents should use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellant. All EPA-registered insect repellants are evaluated for safety and effectiveness, and will contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or paramenthanediol as the active ingredient. Repellents containing a higher percentage of the active ingredient typically provide longer-lasting protection.

It is also important to get rid of breeding sites. To do so, homeowners should remove any standing water. Some tips include turning over any type of container that can collect fluid. Once a week, empty out items that hold water such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpots, and trash containers. Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains. Treat standing water that cannot be eliminated, such as retention ponds or drainage ditches, with a mosquito larvicide. Mosquito larvicide is easy to use and can be purchased at most home improvement stores.

Individuals should also wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially while outdoors, and limit outdoor activities when-ever mosquitoes are most active, typically late afternoon, dusk to dawn, and in the early morning. Avoid areas where mosquitoes may be present and maintain window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of homes and buildings. Never prop open doors, allowing for easy entry into the home.

For more information residents can follow @publichealthOC on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The Health Division encourages everyone to share its prevention messages. Additional information can also be found at the Mosquito-Borne Disease Information Page at:
www.oakgov.com/health/information/Pages/Mosquito-Borne-Diseases.aspx