- Jamie Vaughn, project coordinator for Trout Unlimited's Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative, fills pails with mulch
- Jacob Postema, left, a senior at Forest Hills Eastern, holds a tray of native plants for Sparta science teacher Sue Blackall
- Calvin College sophomore Araceli Eikenberry spreads mulch
Students, Community Team Up to Protect Nash Creekby Story and photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick
Students from throughout the area and Sparta community members recently worked together to protect Nash Creek from erosion and pollution, culminating a long-term project to keep the creek flowing clean and shore up its banks.
Students in the Sparta community have been crusading to protect Nash Creek for years, planting trees, restoring prairies, and installing rain gardens and native plants to reduce polluted stormwater runoff on Sparta Schools' property. Last year, they took their work into the community to restore the banks of Nash Creek near the library.
Led by Appleview Elementary teacher Sue Blackall and supported by Groundswell, nearly 800 students from third grade through high school visited the creek throughout the year to plant a "stream buffer." The new buffer is not only beautiful, but features deep-rooted native plants that can withstand extremes of moisture and concentrations of nutrients and other contaminants typical of stormwater runoff -- the major source of water pollution in West Michigan. The polluted water gets filtered by the plants and recharges the groundwater rather than entering Nash Creek and contributing to erosion. Native plants also provide habitat for ecologically important native birds and butterflies.
The Village of Sparta and Downtown Development Authority were so pleased with the success of the project that they wanted to expand the native stream buffer into Rogers Park. Elementary students returned to the creek this spring and removed non-native vegetation to make room for the native plants.
This summer, community members came together to bring the project to fruition by planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers along Nash Creek in the park to further improve water quality downstream. The Green Team, made up of high school students from throughout the Rogue River and Plaster Creek watershed, led by Trout Unlimited and Plaster Creek Stewards, along with That ONE Team, a local robotics crew with a passion for water conservation, worked with volunteers to get their hands dirty and do their part to protect this important tributary of the Rogue River.
Submitted on: July 7th 2017