Nature

By Kerry Lark

Trevor Johnson

TREVOR JOHNSON, THE FOUNDER OF NEW DAWN GARDENSCAPES LLC., is an energetic fellow with a genuine passion for plants and our planet, and a true educator at heart! His green industry education and experience is impressive and diverse, including:

• Student Teacher and Farmer at MSU’s Student Organic Farm 2003-2007

• Owner/Operator of New Dawn Gardenscapes LLC since 2006

• Awarded a Permaculture Design Certificate in 2006

• Earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Horticulture from Michigan State University in 2007

• Resident Farmer and Manager at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital since 2014

Oakland County Food Policy Council Member since 2014

• Earning a Masters of Public Health Degree from Oakland University in 2022

What is permaculture? The word comes from combining “permanent” and “agriculture.” It is credited to Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two educators who observed how the unsustainable methods employed by modern industrialized humans were destroying our planet. They became inspired by studying how our indigenous ancestors lived in better harmony with the earth and climate around them, so they published their ground-breaking book, Permaculture One in 1978. According to Mr. Mollison; “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”

The philosophy describes an approach of creating better designs for us to manage our land and resources, designs based on mimicking the successful ecosystems currently existing in nature. It starts with observing and understanding what makes nature succeed and then uses this knowledge as a template to implement a better way for humans to co-exist with the earth.

Permaculture doesn’t focus only on how human actions affect local air, water soil, animals and plants. Rather, it includes the effects our actions will have on ecosystems far away. Practitioners of permaculture call this “whole system thinking.”

Like all great ideas, permaculture has evolved and expanded drastically in the last 44 years, far beyond its rural roots to now including urban areas. It is urban areas that Trevor is focused on, using permacuture as his guide to improve the overall public health in local communities. Trevor embraces the importance of re-attaching the lost connections between people and plants, and the positive effect this has on human health.

We know that modern mega-farms waste precious non-renewable resources such as soil, water, minerals and nutrients. The short-term pain of the current high food prices and food shortages highlights this fact, but this is small potatoes compared to the long-term damage these negative practices are doing to the planet.

We can all help to restore our ecosystems, producing sustainable, self-reliant communities. Doing this will give future generations a better world, one that values and preserves its resources. The great Chief Seattle summed it up best long ago, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR A “NEW DAWN” AND A FRESH START FOR OUR PLANET. Sure, our local governments can help, but what are you going to do?

While you ponder that, keep in mind what Albert Einstein once said; “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything!”

To learn more about how permaculture can make a difference in your community, check out www.newdawngardens.org.

THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB (FGC), founded in 1931, continues to be vibrant and active.

Fall activities included the annual mum sale, a scholarship fundraiser. FGC has offered a scholarship to a graduating Ferndale High School senior since 1998!

In September, the FGC held their annual zinnia bloom contest (Ferndale’s city flower). Everyone votes on the best bloom and the winner takes home a blue ribbon. The contest is open to all and is a fun way for local gardeners to meet in person.

A big highlight of 2021 was the special field trip to the Piet Oudolf Garden on Belle Isle.

And free zinnia seeds were handed out at the annual Seed swap at the Ferndale Library in February.

The FGC maintains the Memorial Mall, a public garden on Oakridge at Livernois “as a place of respite and contemplation” for the community. Garden club volunteers also helped rejuvenate the plants around the Hilton Convalescent home.

MONTHLY MEETINGS INCLUDE PRESENTATIONS on a variety of gardening topics includeing intentional meadows, planting native plants and trees, supporting pollinators (including monarch and black swallowtail butterflies), restoring native bird habitats with healthy nesting materials, rooting houseplant cuttings, hydroponic seed starting, growing aquatic plants, and more. Meeting dates are May 12, June 9, July 14, Sept. 9; 7:00 P.M. at Harding Park Pavillion.

The club also hosts garden workdays at Oakridge and Livernois the first Saturday of each month at 10:00 A.M. Feel free to bring your own tools and help out! April 2 / May 7 / June 4 / July 2 / Aug. 6 / Sept. 3 / Oct. 1 / Nov. 5.

FGC membership includes residents of Ferndale, Oak Park, Detroit, Royal Oak and more. Garden lovers of all skills and abilities are invited from beginners to master gardeners to “folks that just enjoy looking at gardens.”

Facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub

• @theferndalegardenclub

theferndalegardenclub@gmail.com

ferndalegardenclub@gmail.com

By Lisa Howard

AS SOON AS YOU HEAR THE FIRST BIRD CHIRP IN SPRING, you might think – “Garden!” And, then you might wonder how to go about creating one. While the kamikaze approach of wandering through a plant store and buying whatever strikes your fancy might work, you’re more likely to be successful if you think about some basic considerations first.

• If you’d like to let your inner floral designer bloom and arrange DIY bouquets to your heart’s content, look for showy, hardy flowers and accent plants that are clearly marked as “excellent to use in bouquets/as cut flowers.”

• If you’re a first-time food grower, choose plants that are easy to maintain and that quickly produce, like bush beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs. Bear in mind that pole beans (and peas) need structures to climb on and that bigger tomatoes and peppers will take much longer to grow and ripen than will smaller versions.

Zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and other squash grow well as long as they don’t get waterlogged — if their broad, cupping leaves spend too much time being wet, they’ll likely wind up attracting opportunistic molds like powdery mildew. Ditto for melons. Corn typically needs to be planted somewhat in quantity in order to be cross-pollinated and produce sizeable ears. Planning is key!

MSU’s Gardening in Michigan website has oodles of information about how to best map out your veggies in an article titled Planning a Smart Vegetable Garden.

• If you’d like to support pollinators, check out MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative. You’ll find thoughtful articles like Pollinator Lawns, Pollinator Gardens and Pollinator-Supportive Trees. They even have a free online course called Pollinator Champions, if you’d like to become an MSU-Certified Pollinator Champion. On a national scale, the National Wildlife Federation offers resources that enable your garden to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat®: www.nwf.org/certify. Planting the kind of native plants that support pollinators also enriches your soil and regenerates the land.

• Aside from thinking about the overall shape and size of your garden, you’ll also need to map out how to get into it if you want to be able to walk through it to harvest food or flowers. Will you need to plan for a pathway? Make sure you’ll be able to easily water and tend to your plants and think about whether you want them to be permanent (perennials) or only last for one season (annuals).

• Stagger your plants! If you want to be able to view everything in your garden, put tall plants in the center/at the back and radiate outwards with progressively shorter plants. Not only will that maximize the aesthetic value of your garden, the shorter plants won’t be shaded into oblivion by their taller neighbors.

Perhaps most importantly, find out what your plants want and give it to them, whether that’s sun or shade, dry or moist soil, vining support or room to spread out or being generally warmer or cooler. If you make it easy for your garden to grow, you’ll be beautifully rewarded.

By Kerry Lark

RE-TREE CONNECTS AND UNITES TREE-LOVERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, offering them three options for mature trees: relocation, buying, or selling. RE-TREE has already saved many mature trees from becoming a pile of woodchips!

DENNISE VIDOSH IS THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF RETREE, A WOMAN-OWNED SMALL BUSINESS DEDICATED TO SAVING AND RE-PURPOSING OUR MATURE TREES. Her love for trees is literally in her family bloodline, going back to the days she spent as a child working with her father, Donn Vidosh Sr., a legendary pioneer in Michigan’s landscape construction industry.

It was her passion for trees that ultimately led Vidosh to create RE-TREE. Based in Pontiac, RETREE’s imaginative digital marketplace and educational platform makes it easy for commercial and residential property owners to save mature trees from being needlessly destroyed and create value for themselves rather than waste.

Trees are the longest living organisms on earth, with some able to live over 5,000 years. Talk about longevity! However, unlike most living organisms, trees aren’t able to get up and move if the need arises. In many urban areas, some trees will eventually outgrow their allotted space. Unfortunately, most people are unaware that they don’t have to destroy a tree trapped in this predicament. RE-TREE now gives their previously-doomed tree a chance to move, survive and thrive.

Mature trees are irreplaceable, and provide plentiful ecological and sentimental value to people, communities and the earth.

  • A single mature tree can absorb about 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and release enough oxygen back into the air to support two human beings.
  • Trees reduce air pollution, prevent contaminated stormwater runoff from reaching our rivers/lakes and save homeowners substantial heating/cooling costs.
  • Trees enhance our well-being by reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This lowers blood pressure and improves our moods and attitudes.
  • The Japanese understand the many health benefits given to them by spending time in their mature forests. They actually bathe their mind and bodies in a form of ecotherapy called “shinrin-yoku,” which literally translates to “forest bath”!
  • Mature trees provide a shady, comfortable home and food source for many life forms.

When you transplant a tree, in most cases it will suffer what is known as “transplant shock.” Unfortunately, the bigger (and older) the tree is, the greater the shock. Therefore, minimizing this stressful shock is of paramount importance. The key element is to preserve as many roots as possible.

RE-TREE has developed a pioneering method to preserve the root mass on a mature tree about to be relocated. Instead of using the traditional mechanical equipment to cut through the soil and remove a tree, RETREE uses an innovative tool called an AirSpade which uses compressed air to carefully expose the all-important root system. This method allows RETREE to preserve and then capture much more of the fragile roots.

Vidosh and RE-TREE care about saving mature trees and preserving their value. She sums it up with a quote from a Senegalese forester; “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

(517) 545-5067
RE-TREE.ORG

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By Lisa Howard

THREE-QUARTERS OF ALL FLOWERING PLANTS AND OVER ONE-THIRD OF THE WORLD’S FOOD CROPS have one thing in common: they depend on pollinators to reproduce: Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, flies, even birds and bats.

Monocropping, pesticide use, shrinking habitats and other modern-day agricultural/urban trends have imperiled pollinators, but the good news is that we can help them receive beautiful flowers and tasty crops in return.

“Don’t clean your garden too early in the spring,” Dominic Scappaticci advises. He’s the president of The Ferndale Garden Club (Facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub) and has long been a friend of bees and butterflies. “It’s best to wait until temperatures average in the 50s. A lot of pollinators like butterflies spend their entire lifecycles here in Michigan, and the next generation is asleep and hiding out in the leaf litter in your garden, in the old stems of plants and underneath the bark scattered around your yard. If you remove all of that debris too early, you’re throwing away the next generation of butterflies.”

And because many native bumblebees nest in the ground, it’s also important to have some patches of bare earth in the garden — then the bees can build their nests in those mulch-free spots and the queen can hibernate over the winter.

Of course, bees love flowers, particularly clover, goldenrod, blue lobelia and yellow giant hyssop, among others. Flowering herbs also attract plenty of buzz, although you might want to keep your basil flowers at a minimum since the leaves acquire a somewhat harsh flavor when you let the plant fully bloom.

Including mostly perennials in your garden and landscaping is another way to help pollinators and the entire food chain since perennials are multiseason plants that offer food and shelter throughout the year. Take the service-berry (a.k.a. shadbush, juneberry and saskatoon berry) that Dominic loves to recommend: Its white flowers bloom in early spring and feed earlywaking pollinators. Then it gets small, bluish berries in June that birds love, and then its leaves turn pretty colors in fall. You can prune it like a small tree or allow it grow like a shrub and – to top it off – you too can eat its berries!

To help butterflies, let wild violets flourish and plant dill, parsley and fennel, all of which Dominic calls “caterpillar magnets.” He points out that while it’s great to plant flowers that adult butterflies will feast upon, their babies — the caterpillars — also need food. “If you don’t have anything in your yard to feed caterpillars, then eventually you won’t see any butterflies,” he says. “You can balance that out by having host plants for caterpillars and also a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. Native oaks are especially wonderful food sources for many different types of butterfly larvae.”

To amp up your gardening savvy, pick up a copy of Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, a book Dominic heartily recommends. Or follow the Ferndale Garden Club and join in the fun! Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their love of gardening.

By Torri Matthes

BERKLEY PARKS & RECREATION TAKES PRIDE IN BEING A SMALL BUT MIGHTY DIVISION in a vibrant and active city. Berkley is home to nine parks (seven of which fall under Parks & Recreation’s supervision), eight baseball fields, ten tennis courts, and a Community Center.

The Department consists of five full-time staff and a number of part-time staff who work within the Community Center, our outdoor maintenance team, summer day camp, and senior transportation. Staff also partner with community groups, youth league sports organizations, and many others to offer a variety of recreation services including over 100 youth, adult, and senior programs and activities throughout the year.

Following the community’s 2021-2025 Recreation Master Plan, Parks & Recreation is working to implement and update new play equipment, improve seating and picnic facilities, increase accessibility in parks and open spaces and increase more shade and trees within the parks.

Over the past year, the Parks & Recreation Department eagerly held a park-naming contest and grand opening for Berkley’s new Oxford Park that contains a new restroom facility, walking paths, new play equipment, and splash pad which opened in June 2021.

Additionally, the Department installed a new play structure and play equipment at the Tot Lot Park in Spring 2021, and a new play structure will be coming to the Community Park in Fall 2021.

The Berkley Parks & Recreation Department works because of our dedicated staff and wonderful volunteers who all love Berkley and come together to provide great experiences for the residents and those in surrounding communities.

 

HAVE YOU EVER LOOKED AT YOUR LIFE and realized that it lacked purpose? Eight months ago we admitted this to ourselves.

Throughout our lives, we are led to believe that we find our value and worth in external sources. This is not true. To place our value in external sources, we create a gap between ourselves and the meaning of life. Which will always lead us to un-fulfillment.

What we know now is that a dream is not what we save up for, work towards or achieve. A dream is the way we experience life. Life is meant to be lived purposefully.

When you ignite your dream, you discover your values. The two are inseparable and support each other. It then becomes imperative that you embody these values in every moment to bring your dream to life.

For us this means leaving Ferndale and beginning our journey of Running Into a New Earth, taking us to the Stop Line 3 Resistance in Northern Minnesota.

THE PROPOSED ROUTE FOR LINE 3 crosses 227 lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi River and rivers that feed directly into Lake Superior. As a representation of these sacred waters, we will be running 227 miles along the North Country Trail.

“If Line 3 is completed it will carry nearly a million barrels a day of crude oil – the dirtiest oil to extract and burn – from Alberta, Canada through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

“When it spills, as all pipelines do, millions of people downstream will feel the effects, and wild rice beds sacred to the Anishinaabe in Minnesota will be destroyed.” – Line 3 Solidarity Action.

Enbridge, the Canadian company building this pipeline, is the same company responsible for the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history which happened in Kalamazoo, July 2010. They are also the same company pushing the Line 5 pipeline which is proposed to travel under the Straits of Mackinac.

THE WAY WE CURRENTLY LIVE as a people has an expiration date that is fast-approaching. Looking for answers within the same system that has led us down a path to our own demise, will only bring about more destruction.

It’s time to create a new energy within ourselves. Looking beyond our current societal structures. Change cannot take place within the current structures. We must change our energy, and the structure will follow.

Unhappiness and negativity is a disease on our planet. What pollution is on the outer level is negativity on the inner. Creating a new energy is to shift the way we experience life. To discover the depths of our being and the beauty that lies at our core. When this happens, our world around us will begin to change.

We heal ourselves, and by doing so, we heal Mother Earth.

To learn more about #StopLine3, visit www.stopline3.org and follow our journey on @wearebrandonandfiona

By Rebecca Hammond

IF YOU’RE SEARCHING OUT INFORMATION ON NATIVE PLANTS RIGHT NOW, it might be because you’re interested in pollinators like butterflies and bees, especially monarchs. Fifteen years or so ago, however, local experts began doing native plant presentations at places like Ferndale’s Kulick Center, and the main focus was the benefits to waterways because of the ability native plants have to hold excess storm water. Less storm water pouring down drains, less pollutants riding along, means cleaner Great Lakes. Nothing much was mentioned in those presentations about bees and butterflies except as an interesting side effect. Neither did they mention flooded basements, those still being a rarity.

If only those experts had waited a couple of years! Soon after this push to go native, basements in our local communities began to flood. And flood, then flood some more. Some homeowners now have flooded basements a couple of times a year. Heavier and more frequent rainfalls are the culprit, but the means by which water gets into our homes varies as much as our soil, plants, construction materials, and methods have varied.

Why do basements flood? Utilities Kingston, Ontario blames “…seepage or flow through the walls or foundation floor, from surface water sources, or by a sanitary or storm sewer backup.” This Old House says, “Even a small storm can trigger a deluge… a house with a 1,500 squarefoot roof sheds 1,000 gallons of water for every inch of falling rain. Once the water accumulates around your foundation, it works its way inside through cracks, joints, and porous material.” A number of sites mention gutters and downspouts sending water down walls instead of away from the house. Most mention nearby concrete and slope of landscape. Most mention soil composition, and many mention what’s planted near that basement.

Cleanwater.com says “Plants are the first line of defense when it comes to erosion control and stormwater management…The extensive and deep root systems of native plants slow down runoff.” Those roots hold water in the soil. Grass roots might be only two-to-four inches deep, but Ferndale’s city flower, Purple Coneflower, has roots that can penetrate to five feet, every inch of those roots able to hold water. Texas Native Plants states that those longer roots provide “flood mitigation services” and that they also filter out pollution.

IF YOU’RE NEW TO MICHIGAN OR GARDENING you might be wondering what native plants even are. They’re just plants that were here before people like us were. There’s quite a variety, and something for everyone: tall sun-lovers like Coneflower and Black-Eyed Susan (loved by birds like gold-finches as much as butterflies); shorter ones like Canada Anemone that not only grow in shade, but bloom in it; specific host plants like Milk-weed, the only plant monarchs will lay eggs on or their caterpillars will eat. There are even some adaptees that fit in quite well, like Queen Anne’s Lace (mine is crawling with swallowtail caterpillars) or Mullein, which may not have the prettiest flower stalk in the world but you won’t mind when you see downy woodpeckers land on it for the seeds. Their long roots hold water for them, as well as for us. These plants don’t need much extra from the grower.

Turf grass, on the other hand, has much shorter roots in comparison, but that’s not the only issue. Remember Michigan master gardener Jerry Baker? He promoted a formula for lawns that included things like beer and ammonia but also dish detergent, which allowed everything else to work for one reason: turf is water-repellent. Detergent breaks the surface tension and allows water to soak in.

Yes, water-repellent. Turf websites, especially golf course sites, call it that, and so promote the use of chemical surfactants to keep water on grass. Some sites actually call grass “hydrophobic.” Thatch is the main reason for this, and the more you fertilize lawn the more thatch it likely has. It occurs when plants build up more decaying matter than nature can break down. Illinois State Extension not only advises against over-fertilizing, they advise against overwatering!

I TRIED AN EXPERIMENT WITH A FEW GALLONS OF RAIN-BARREL WATER. I poured water at intervals onto turf, irises, creeping phlox, and lastly on a patch of natives that included goldenrod and black-eyed susans. All were a few inches from concrete, and slightly uphill from it. I expected water to run off quickly in all four places at first, and it did. But as I revisited each spot, one thing stood out: runoff never slowed from the turf. The irises and surrounding soil slowed it by the second pour. The natives? I had a hard time even getting water onto the sidewalk, as the less-covered soil that surrounds them is very absorbent.

The creeping phlox was the biggest surprise and disappointment because, although it’s not native, I like it and assumed it would allow rainwater easy passage. But it was as bad as grass, or worse. I waited about a half hour and repeated the whole process a few times and, although runoff from the turf maybe slowed a bit, it wasn’t much. There was no more runoff from the irises, and very little from the natives. The phlox remained a sieve.

So where does all this water go when it runs off? Into the streets, and down our storm drains. These drains have become controversial here in Ferndale. Some folks think we should clean them off, letting water flow rapidly, and some think slow is better; don’t clear them. Both camps hope that speed or lack thereof is what keeps that storm water out of basements. (It’s worth noting that blowing grass clippings and the like into the street is actually not legal.)

Since Ann Arbor is a leader in things environmental, I went to their website. It not only says, “Cleaning out the storm drain on your street is a simple way to help keep the Huron River clean and prevent flooding in your neighborhood,” they also have a downloadable map of storm drains with a checklist for found objects. Residents can explore their neighborhoods with kids or friends and search out storm drains and help “the neighborhood and the environment.” They can even adopt a specific storm drain.

The site also points out that, “Whenever there’s a heavy rainfall, or even just a little rain, a lot of pollution can end up being washed off the streets and into the Huron River. You can help prevent that simply by reducing the amount of rainwater that flows off your property from sidewalks, driveways, roofs, etc.” Options they suggest in addition to native plants: rain barrels and rain gardens, which can be large depressions filled with native plants, or a few lower places here and there. Residents can earn stormwater credits for these improvements. A person wanting to go bigger can install cisterns or dry wells, both designed to hold excess rainwater.

IF YOU WANT TO SEE SOME CLOSER EXAMPLES of rain gardens, check out the new ones along 9 Mile Road in Oak Park between Rosewood and Scotia. There are big depressions filled with things like swamp milkweed and Joe Pye weed, along the south side’s new bike path. Most of our yards are actually reverse rain gardens, by the way, sloping up away from sidewalks and streets, setting up more flooding.

Whether basements flood because water goes down storm drains too quickly or too slowly, keeping water out of our streets would help keep it out of our basements. Deep roots, less cement, and rain gardens would help. The City could consider once again allowing gravel driveways or adding more pervious pavement.

No matter how it gets there, water pouring off our lawns and streets and into our basements seems the ultimate exercise in futility and frustration. A local waterproofing company told me that no two basements are alike. Sealing walls, repairing cracks, adding sump pumps and stand pipes are all options. Keeping the water away to begin with might be a good starting point.

And consider this: if you or your neighbors use lawn chemicals, that storm water runoff will contain those chemicals. And so will your flooded basement.


“2014: The yard had no plants other than grass; major flooding in the basement. 2016: We move in, regrade the perimeter of the house, plants galore – basement does not flood.”
– Rachel Anne Engel, Ferndale

“No lawn for 20 years now. Basement never floods. If the backyard does it’s only on paver walk, plus it’s gone in 20 minutes. I never get standing water.”
– Dean Smith, Ferndale

“Forty years, no lawn other than 30 feet of devil’s strip. Only water was the ginormous flood six years ago when every house was flooded. Thirsty trees, shrubs, and plantings take up all the water that comes down, and our house is within 15 feet of a Red Run tributary.”
– Robert Lebow, Huntington Woods

“When I moved to Ferndale 20 years ago, the previous owner had used large concrete patio blocks around the perimeter of the house. There was a lawn in the front yard and back yard. Had water in basement on west side of house once. 18 years ago I took away all lawn in the front yard and most in the back yard, native plantings, some herbs and veggies, and I have never had water in my basement and I rarely mow the back patch of grass that remains for the family dog, which is away from the house anyway.”
– Catherine Jing Rehe, Ferndale

“90 percent garden plus 2 rain gardens. Only flooded once when sump pump died”
– Lauren Yellen, Ferndale

“No grass at all, 25’x25′ mostly edible garden, mulch! Has not flooded. I do seal the walls every few years. No sump pump, and snake the drains twice a year. My weeds/volunteers are morning glories, milkweed, mint, tomatoes and marigolds. Love my yard!!!”
– Merry Gundy, Ferndale

“We’ve never flooded and I give all the credit to our giant Eastern Cottonwood. This year I did get rid of most of my front yard grass and planted natives.”
– Elissa Agans

“Ours leaks and it did flood (seven inches) in 2014. We need a french drain and our problem will be solved. We have more grass than cement, lots of flower beds.”
– Jacquelyn Marie

“I live in Canton, a couple houses over from a creek, and we replaced most of our front yard with native woodland plants in 2019. We do not have flooding in our basement.”
– Jackie Fleishcher Best

“My basement only gets a water seepage when it’s a downpour or steady rain over several hours. Only one wall leaks via an opening near the chimney. Thankfully, the water goes straight to a drain. I have grass and plants and raised beds in my yard. The back area of my yard is where the downward slope is. My neighbor’s yard gets deep enough for ducks and birds to swim and play!”
– Pamela Bentley Callaway

“My basement has never flooded except for the sewer debacle in 2014. I have no grass – all perennial gardens and maybe a few native plants – but certainly not the majority”
– Barbara Harte, Huntington Woods

By Jessica J. Shaw

AS SPRING MAKES ITS APPEARANCE, warmer weather calls us to explore the green spaces of Metro Detroit. Thanks to local conservation efforts, the surrounding area is replete with several parks for those seeking good ol’ Vitamin N.

ONE INCREASINGLY POPULAR JAPANESE MODALITY in outdoor enjoyment is Shinrin-yoku, also known as “forest bathing.” As defined by the Association of Forest and Nature Therapy, forest bathing entails leaving digital devices behind and walking slowly through the forest, observing nature in its constant state-of-change.

Come join Ferndale Friends on paths near and far to enjoy the calming benefits of spending time in nature.

Stage Nature Area
6685 Coolidge Highway, Troy MI 48098

Start your walk by grabbing a map at the Nature Center. You’ll set out to experience 1.5 miles of trails in a park known for its ample wildlife such as deer and turkey. The wooded trails and boardwalks wind through upland forest, meadows, wetlands, and a cattail marsh playing a backdrop to the Rouge River. Go for the peace and quiet. Stay for the activities such as maple-tapping scheduled through the Nature Center.

Heritage Park
24916 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills MI 48836

Step onto the winding trails at Heritage Park and experience why “Let nature be your teacher” is the motto of the park. With four and a half miles of looping trails for hiking and nature study, curious hikers will find the park’s gems, including the Scout Trail where a small rumble of water cascades over rocks and the River Trail. Sweeping vistas can be enjoyed from benches throughout the park overlooking meadows and birdwatching spots.

Douglas Evans Nature Preserve
31845 Evergreen Rd, Beverly Hills MI 48025

Take a walk on the wild side at Douglas Evans. Ungroomed, rustic trails greet hikers who navigate the winding paths and invite the adventurous at heart to follow openings in the bushes to locate the riverside trail system. Sit-spots, like large fallen logs along the riverbank, make for places to pause to absorb the surroundings. Park on Evergreen Road and cross the bridge to enter this petite and untamed natural space. Be forewarned, there are no restrooms.

Red Oaks Nature Center
30300 Hales Street, Madison Heights MI 48071

You’ll find a pleasant surprise tucked across the street from Meijer on 13 Mile Road where you can steal away from the hustle and bustle at this 37-acre park. Here, trails are alive with birdsong while towering trees sway in the breeze overhead. Stop by the vernal pond in the spring and summer months to observe the dynamic changes it undergoes as the seasons progress.

Tenhave Woods Nature Trail
Lexington Blvd & Marais Avenue, Royal Oak MI 48073

Forest-bathers will appreciate this vibrant natural environment as a treat for the senses nestled away from the cityscape. This fenced-in nature area affords walkways winding through 22 acres in the Quickstad Park next to Royal Oak High School’s Raven Stadium. The park touts oak, beech, hickory and maple trees which are said to have stood since the early 1800s. Come Spring, several types of wildflowers, including trilliums dot the forest floor. Dragonfly Pond is a nice place to pause and is also a gathering spot for wildlife, like turtles and frogs.

Maybury State Park
20145 Beck Road, Northville MI 48167

Prepare for the grandest of adventures at this crown jewel of natural beauty. Start by locating the park map on signposts which distinguish walking trails from those meant for bikers and horseback riders. Meander under the canopy of trees through dense forest and rolling hills that give away to open meadows and the small lake. Paved walking trails are also available at this nearly thousand-acre park.

By Mary Meldrum
Photos ©2021 Parks & Recreation Staff

LAREINA WHEELER is the Director of Ferndale Parks & Recreation. She is an energetic and enthusiastic leader in the City’s very busy department. There are only four full-time and two part-time people working in the Recreation Department.

WHEELER’S DEPARTMENT IS THE LEAD FOR THE PLANNING, DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT of the city’s parks. They provide programming for all ages as well as a very robust sports program: Softball, kickball, soccer, baseball and basketball.

The Department also coordinates the city’s special events, such as the Fall Festival, the Fitness Festival, the Daddy-Daughter Dance, and other events that serve the community. The city’s Breakfast With Santa Around The World is a look at how people celebrate Christmas in different countries.

“We typically do a craft class that makes an ornament specific to the country that we are sponsoring that year. We try to do things a little differently,” Wheeler indicates.

Ferndale offers a SMART transportation program that shuttles residents from their homes to a destination within a five-mile radius of Ferndale.

Ferndale has 14 parks, and the Parks & Recreation Department has made major improvements including new play equipment, walking paths, and water fountains. The parks have been very well-maintained. Projects now include new walking paths as well as a pavilion and outdoor fitness equipment. New benches and trash receptacles are part of the improvements too.

Many of the improvements were made possible by a 2015 bond passed by the residents, including the installation of a splash pad. The community is very excited about that.

“This past year, we completed a park project downtown, Schiffer Park. We extended the park, installed custom planter boxes with seating, decorative paving, a drinking fountain and open grassy areas. We formalized and made it an official downtown park. There are custom planter boxes and seating and it is a beautiful asset to downtown.”

“SINCE COVID, WE HAVE REVAMPED A LOT OF THINGS. We offered free meals in conjunction with YMCA, Gleaners and our ongoing Meals On Wheels program. In addition, we worked with several grant partners, such as Project Play, to give out weekly sports kits. We utilized our partnerships to provide a different sport themed kit every week. The kits were sponsored by organizations like the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings. Some of the sport kits included hockey and soccer equipment.”

Wheeler went on, “We continued to have a presence online last year and we served the community the best we could under the circumstances. As we open up again, we are opening up outside. We have soccer starting this spring. Adult and girls’ softball and baseball and kickball will start again too.”

“Our Ferndale Daddy-Daughter Dance is usually held in the Winter. This year we are having a Daddy-Daughter Movie and drive-in. We plan to have some activities at the drive-in. We will have the COVID precautions in place.” There is a drive-in movie scheduled for the other kids on the same day.

The outdoor fitness festival will be in July, an opportunity for the community to come and exercise outdoors. “We collaborate with various gyms and health professionals who offer different fitness classes for youth and adults and provide health tips and information.

“In addition, our largest event is our Ferndale Fall Festival. We plan to still hold that October 2. We want to make sure we are doing everything safely. We always do safety checks. We are very excited about servicing the community, offering a little more this year and allowing the community to get out safely.”

WHEELER SHARES THAT SENIORS HAVE BEEN THE MOST AFFECTED BY THE ISOLATION and COVID. “We look forward to helping them overcome their isolation and get out-and-about.”

In 2019, Ferndale built an award-winning skate park, one of the most utilized parks in the city. You can see all abilities and ages in that park; children from three to four-years-old, all the way up to 55 or 60-years-old.

Wheeler has enjoyed four years as Director. She started in March of 2017. LaReina’s favorite part of the job is serving the community and giving them something they want and will utilize. “Knowing that I am working on something that will be successful. Projects are in line with what the community wants and I am bringing joy to the residents and youth.”

Wheeler says her Department always puts the community and the community’s needs first. “We make sure that we strive to make sure that our efforts are planned in an equitable and inclusive manner so nobody is excluded and everyone feels welcome when they participate. We work very hard. We have a great team and we share the same vision for the residents. We want to continue on our upward trend.”