Over time, a storm water retention pond area just adjacent to NCMC became overgrown with cattails and filled with sediment. This allowed, when it rained, the water to run off the hardscape at the university, flood the nature trail in the area and directly flow into the Bear River. The watershed project created three ponds on higher ground that trap sediment and pollutants in run-off water. The water then slowly flows through a culvert to a large, deep natural pond. On the back side of the natural pond is a culvert and a manhole-covered dam, allowing staff to control the pond’s water level and the flow of water to a creek which flows to the Bear River. The ponds are easily accessible from NCMC parking lots, so staff periodically can address any added sediment. The project also created a new dock and a nesting island.
“I’m going out on a limb here,” Barber said, “but I’d say that North Central has the largest natural area attached to a main campus of any university in the country.”
Engineering plans for the project were paid for by a $7,500 grant from the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Community Foundation. Then, thanks to funds from a larger Little Traverse Bay Watershed grant, written by Jennifer Gilb, of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, the NCMC project was completed. Funds were awarded to Tip of the Mitt as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant.
“A key reason that we received the funds was that we had already paid for Northern Design Group to do an engineering plan, and we were shovel ready,” Barber said.
The project took several years to complete, with engineering done in 2010. The EPA grant was awarded in 2011, the project started in 2012, and the majority of work was finished in spring 2013, though there remain some ongoing project clean-up.
The Natural Areas Committee worked with Hoffman Landscaping to plant trees, shrubs and grasses in the watershed area which are all native Northern Michigan wetlands species.
“Before the bulldozing began, students captured and moved turtles and other wildlife,” Barber said. “Now, Great Blue Heron, ducks, sandpipers, belted kingfishers, turtles, frogs and minnows have now returned to the area. In fact, the day the bulldozing equipment left, a big snapping turtle walked by heading back for the pond.”
The natural area is used by science, art, English and photography classes. Much of the area maintenance is performed by students on work-study programs or through volunteer service programs connected to their classes.