Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy

January 7th, 2021

Host: Ben Fogt

With Peter Kantz, Erin Parker, and Paul Gloor

Grosse Ile Nature And Land Conservancy

2021, Ben Fogt

What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?

Transcript (This is the first pass, automated transcript. It will be refined.)

[0:00] This is what's the deal Grosse Ile a podcast about the people places history and events that make Grosse Ile unique I'm your host Ben fogt.

[0:09] Now if you've been listening for a while you'll remember episode 7 when I spoke with John Hartig about the Gibraltar Bay unit of the Detroit River.

[0:16] Music.

[0:25] That they do with the Wild Spaces we have here in Grosse Ile Township that organization is the Grosse Ile nature and Land Conservancy.

[0:33] As always I'll have links to everything in the episode notes and in the transcript you do know that you can see the transcripts don't you.

[0:41] All the transcripts are a transcripts dot what's the deal now before we get to our conversation I'm going to confess something.

[0:49] I had misunderstood something about the Gibraltar Bay unit before meeting these folks and I'll own it.

[0:55] And Peter sets me straight to tell you the truth that's what the podcast is about correcting assumptions we make about the things we think we understand about all these things around us.

I hope the podcast is helping to make parts of Island life less mysterious and more accessible now on to the conversation about the Grosse Ile nature and Land Conservancy

today I'm speaking with Peter can't see Aaron Parker and Paul glor from the Grosse Ile nature and Land Conservancy about the organization and the efforts to conserve natural areas around Grosse Ile

thank you for joining me what's the deal Grosse Ile so first why don't you introduce yourself and tell us what role you serve in the organization.

Hey I'm Peter cats and I'm the president of growth still nature Lang Conservancy.

[1:38] I've been the president for the last six years or so and this will probably be my last year since we were set up we're only allowed to be on the board for.

Three consecutive three-year terms and then we have to go off the board so that's my role today okay I'm Paul glor I'm the communication co-chair for the conservancy and also our secretary so I serve Runner.

[2:00] I'm here in Parker and I am the brand new education committee chair also very new to the island I just moved here in August so this has been a great way to get to know folks and get involved right away

oh yeah you really jumped in yeah they had an opening and I had offered to volunteer and suddenly I'm the chair so.

[2:18] It's the way it works let's talk about the Conservancy how did it get started what's its Mission and how does it operate in the community hey Peter I can take this one,


[2:30] The so the grocery aisle nature and Land Conservancy was founded in 1993 there were about 12 Grosse Ile residents who are concerned about.

The problems of preserving the islands semi-rural atmosphere and the face of development pressure at that time.

And so one of their recommendations was to form

Land Trust so that the community could donate land and it would be vinyl voluntarily preserved at the same time while sort of avoiding the whims of you know local governments that can come and go or whatever so.

That was put into place in 1993 as a 501 C non-profit organization.

In fact we just celebrated our 25th anniversary in 2018 with with a little party over on,

that little birdie I'm sorry for at Elizabeth Park thank you thank you yeah

the mission as of the Conservancy at that time was stated as to provide for public benefit the preservation stewardship and understanding of the natural resources.

In the township of Grosse Ile and surrounding areas so it's sort of a two-fold thing it's protecting land and stewarding the land and also educating the pop you know the population about the natural,

environment here in Grosse Ile.

[3:47] We've got about a hundred and fifty or two hundred membership member households we kind of classify our membership is based on household so if your post signs up your member to but your counted as one membership household,

we have about a hundred and fifty six acres of land either by direct ownership or administering conservation easements.

I guess I mentioned you know I mentioned stewardship and education those are our two most active committees stewardship maintains and improves and the different preserves that we have.

And also you know Works maybe with the township or some other partners to help improve somewhere in not native areas.

And the education committee they conduct Environmental Education for people of all ages and in fact we've also done some education with some of our elected officials either at the local Federal level over the years.

So there's different elements of Education that have to happen either from young children all the way up to adults,

we have a few other committees land acquisition membership fundraising and Communications which really all work to handle more you know the administrative need of the of the.

Conservancy but are to most active organizations their stewardship in education,

anything you want to add to that guy's well I just like to say that we're governed by a board of directors and currently we have 16 members.

On that board of directors and the.

[5:16] The board basically is made up of people from the community all of our four members right now our fact residents of Grosse Ile.

But we have a wide variety of backgrounds and skills on the board we're very,

Lucky in that respect we have scientists we have Educators we have lawyers we have no all kinds of.

People all kinds of skills and that's really what makes it strong board.

[5:40] That's for sure and you did talk about the education program how what form do the education programs take

so the education programs take a lot of different forms and of course covid sort of changed everything for everyone so not as much happen,

in the past year we're planning now that we've switched everything to being virtual

we'll have an outdoor component so think of a guided hike that has a seasonal Focus once a month and they're open to everyone so families with kids or senior citizens you don't have to be a resident of Grosse Ile to participate.

In those will change basically every month there's a different topic and they just sort of celebrate whatever is going on in the outdoors that time of year,

and I think a lot of people are surprised to find out winter is actually this really magical time to be outdoors you can see cracks and you can hear birds and you can actually get really good at identifying trees without the leaves on so there is

there's something happening in every month.

And those are typically a guided walk led by a naturalist from the community and so you get an expert out there with you or several experts and you get to see and hear and learn about what's going on.

We are going to include a virtual component this year so if you don't feel comfortable or can't make.

And outdoor socially distance masked walk this time of year or you're just not available will have an outdoor or a excuse me a virtual component to share so that you can go out and do some things on your own to know what to look for listen for.

[7:05] We're also hoping to reconnect with the schools and have some outdoor Environmental Education programs available to students and teachers in particular on the on the island so,

lots of different ways that we try to connect people to the green spaces here you know really for all ages and all interests.

Sure and the guided hikes where do those usually happen.

Typically the Gibraltar Bay unit though I have a couple planned for later this year we're obviously waiting to see how things transpire with covid but with the owl prowl is typically in October or November at Centennial Farm Park and so,

actually I'm another one plant there in July for sort of nocturnal Twilight Adventures let's go look for lightning bugs and,

listen for birds and maybe I have some acoustic bat monitoring equipment so just kind of taking advantage of the different green spaces on the island getting people to know them and the wildlife we share our spaces with

sure you know we're talking about

you mentioned Centennial Park and and Gibraltar Bay but gilc isn't part of of the township government right,

wrap it separate how would you describe the difference well the township government refer more to open space and maybe the recreation department those those activities are governed by Township.

Appointed committees or commissions.

[8:29] And for the most part they are funded through tax revenue through Villages dedicated millages for example there was a delicate dedicated military purposing open space and there is a dedicated millets for the rec department.

We on the other hand are we like completely on donations either from our members and membership fees.

Or grants or donating donations from other organizations or foundations Etc so in that respect we're different from.

[9:01] The way they operate our funding is different than way operate and we're governed by a different group of people,

a group of people that are not appointed by the township government

if I appointed by our after full members yeah that's it's an important distinction to make that's for sure so I might I might add maybe though that we have you know we do work with the township

land and open space in some ways but we do have a you know a number of interactions with other organizations around so.

You know we work with us fish and wildlife we work with the Boy Scouts we have several Eagle Scout projects every year we play a leadership role in the epa's mclouth steel Community Advisory Group.

[9:40] So we're helping to get Communications out about what's going on at the mclouth steel site the Superfund Site

we have a joint project with friends of Detroit River to improve Wetland area and how to put Marsh as mentioned before we've got a liaison person with the,

open space Greenway committee so.

You know as a man you know as an you know we are separate organization but we do interact quite a fit with some other local organizations that share our vision

yeah it also like to add that we not only interact with them but we actually Steward a number of,

Township properties for the township for examples Sunrise Park.

[10:18] We have spent over sixty thousand dollars at Sunrise part making Improvement they're putting in retaining walls putting in spotting Scopes and benches and Landscaping cetera we also Stewart in turn up and pain which is located,

on Meridian on the corner of Meridian Intrepid road down there by the soccer fields we Steward that area for the township,

restored Gibraltar Bay unit of the Detroit River National Wildlife Refuge for us fish and wildlife so even though those are not properties that are owned by us we in fact do all the work there we Steward the property we,

real improvements improvements to the property and we spend a lot of money on those properties money that comes from our donors,

and we get people out on those properties enjoying them and doing education programs to so we're sort of showcasing them for those other groups as well sure

I was going to ask about the stewardship with forms that takes so you talked about improvements and and some general maintenance Are there specific things well stewardship will include luck the things you mentioned but we also

do invasive plant removal phragmites and.

[11:28] Thorn and honeysuckle we also plant native species,

Billy Stewart some of our own properties and some of the found two properties for example an Intrepid Palma to the township property we planted dozens of trees there and bushes be cut the grass there we basically maintain that area for the township.

Our own property we plant trees and like say remove invasive species.

[11:52] That's all really important maybe mention too that at like ahead of on Mars Gateway you know we built a trail and a boardwalk and note look to overlook the river on Hennepin Marsh you know where you see a lot of.

Migrating birds passing through a various times of the years and stuff so there's some areas where we make improvements on our own properties and on preserves

and then some other that are you know owned by other entities

going off of that one of the things that we hear probably most often in social media from new Grosse Ile residents

is that they can't find playgrounds we've got the the one that's behind the post office is probably that one and then the the ones that the elementary that the elementary schools are probably it as far as I know maybe maybe it's some of the churches but those are off-limits a lot of times

so I have a nice you have a nice playground at Centennial Farmers well that's true I forgot about that one too,

But but so a lot of people want to know why all these not just the open space but just the wildlife areas we don't have more say maintained Trails or playgrounds and that that sort of recreational stuff do you want to

say anything about that

well I guess you really have to address that mainly to open space and Recreation Department but on our own properties I mean we call our properties nature preserves,

they're really not playgrounds and all most of our properties are smart small parcels.

Little playground or parking lot really wouldn't fit on those Parcels of land.

[13:22] Others are larger Parcels of land are wetlands and things like that there is that are very sensitive we really can build on those types of things so.

We don't have playgrounds and parking lots for that reason open space there is an open space ordinance and that ordinance really limits what they can do on open space.

Then I don't think playgrounds are allowed on open space I don't think parking lots are a lot open space but that's something you'd really have to.

Talk to the Township's Representatives about that and people who are new to the island don't realize that we didn't have parking down at Gibraltar Bay until just recently.

[13:59] Not true though isn't it.

Yeah the parking lot outside to broader base been there forever oh I remember that there was a some controversy a few years ago about.

About opening it up for parking do they extend the problem well yes correct I mean we're a long time Gibraltar Bay was only open when we.

Nature and Land Conservancy hosted an open house there okay,

because that area wasn't that close to the public at one time it was owned by EPA and we Steward it for the EPA we built trails and observation platforms,

but it could only be open when we actually had a physical presence there so it's very limited once the US fish and wildlife took it over they open it up from dawn to dusk.

[14:47] Enter the parking lot there the parking lots been there forever okay well that that clarifies all that that

that makes me feel a lot better but I've seen a lot of people using that space during the pandemic so it's been definitely appreciated I think it's a place that more people have experienced this year

because they well maybe because the bridge is closed to they don't have many places to go.

[15:11] So about the properties that GI NLC owns how do those become part of the organization well most of them came to us through donations.

Our biggest donor of land so far has been BASF Corporation.

They donated Hennepin March North which is about a hundred and twenty acres of land.

But it's all under water it's a market they also donated to us the area we call Henson barred Gateway Preserve,

which was two residential lots next to each other and that's where we have a boardwalk and an observation platform overlooking the marsh,

so that's been our biggest donor of land but we've also had a number of individuals who have donated their property to us a couple Lots here in a couple Lots there.

And they do that mainly for tax purposes they get a tax write-off in the Donate property.

We also get some of our land through the Wayne County Land Bank when crappie comes available through them.

Use the it's property that Wayne County doesn't value highly at all so we get it for a very small fee basically a fee to transfer the property to us those are the main ways we.

[16:25] Diamond Property we also have some easements,

put your conservation easements we don't own the property the property owner still has that property under him but he's agreed to leave that in its natural setting so we have about maybe ten or Twelve Acres,

Grosse Ile like that and then about another eight or ten acres in Flat Rock like that.

Conservation easements so it extends past Grosse Ile then yes we can own property and Grosse Ile and the surrounding area that's basically way are our mission is worded

it's an opportunity for a landowner who wants to preserve his property in its natural state.

They get a tax benefit by turning it into a conservation easement that we have that we all sure are there other organizations like this in Downriver there is a Southeast Michigan conservation,

but yes there are other organizations not only in the Downriver area but all throughout Michigan.

[17:24] If people want to get involved with GI NLC how do they do that the website social media.

[17:31] It's to join me that's the way to do it involved with us and you can go to our website,

and there's a link on there that allow you to become a member social media all can talk about that fall want you going to all the ways we.

Communicate with the general public sure sure yeah so we do we do communicate with the with the general public through social media like a.

Instagram Twitter presence we have got a website.

[17:57] We do have informative emails that go out to our membership and interested parties about once a month with other information.

We have a newsletter that we published three times a year that has some really excellent information and I'm really proud of the newsletter that's put together by.

The organization that goes out so that's so how do we do some Communications.

If people want to be coming you know more involved with the Conservancy I think there's a few ways to do it one is Peter mentioned you know become a member because your donations make make it possible for us to do what we do,

volunteer their time and energy and various activities you know we've got to talk about stewardship and education but we have other other needs you know office work or whatever,

we have a photo contest that's run every year for the high school kids that has you know about

200 photos every year for ten ten different high schools usually usually participate so we have all kinds of these other activities and so we can use volunteers to help us do these things too.

[19:00] To be honest the more volunteers we have the more we could do

people can donate land right as we talked about that before or they could donate equipment you know we've got stewardship needs so it's no good to have a good chainsaw every now and then

of course people can leave legacies if they if they want and that I would think the other is just you know tell people about the the the work that you've seen done by the Conservancy you know we,

we want to get the message out I think this is an organization that does lots of good things on the island you know we'd like others to help us,

join them and do that so I'll just reiterate anyone's welcome to come to an education program so that's a great way to just sort of dip your toes in and sort of learn a little bit more not just about the island but about the organization so that's right yeah.

Every program is free to the public so we don't charge admission or anything of course will take a donation but it's free and you don't have to be a member to attend so I'll get my I'll get my boots cleaned up here.

[19:58] There's so many hot button issues around the river right now anybody could name probably five or six right now what do you think are most critical to Nature conservation in our area right now

well the biggest one has to be you know the McCloud steel site and how it's going to be redeveloped,

going to be remediated first and then redevelop like I say like Paul mentioned we do have a member of our board on the citizens advisory

committee or group for that site so we keep a very sharp eye on what's going on over there,

and the other industrial areas around here and I biggest concern is especially with Trenton right across the channel from us.

[20:40] You know how is Trenton going to redevelop the sites that you know the basically they're losing them about still site the DP site the chemical plant site over there.

All those things are very important to us I think they should be important everybody in the Downriver area I agree anything else that maybe we may be missing,

what kind of race maybe habitat loss in general in her area you know I see you know the high waters of cause problems in Wetland areas and washing away areas for fishes and stuff and so I you know some of the,

activity is going on with you know putting in Shoals to protect Wetlands I think are useful but I personally see a lot of damage done by the deer herd in our open space areas

my backyard too so that's a bit of a problem and you know we have a few know of an invasive species problem

hearing phragmites are very very difficult to control and very disruptive to the.

To then to the native habitats what are those and what do they look like.

[21:43] So the phragmites they look like they are tall I'm going to I'm going to get this wrong because I'm not a naturalist but there and maybe here can help me here but they're tall read like structures yeah

the big fuzzy see you see them everywhere you probably don't even notice them they're just

they're along I-75 there on the island if they're tall plants and their thick and then they had this big fluffy seed head on them right now

I'm going to have some in my backyard if you have a wet spot you probably do yeah and if you imagine.

A stand of them they're really hard to walk through for us but that also limits their value to Wildlife for nesting room

even for hiding or feeding their not a good food source and to really hard to get rid of their a really tough plant so so how do you get rid of it,

well for example if the Hennepin Marsh Gateway about probably eight years ago we've ten years ago we had a burn where that you burned of all out of there,

but they return me it's almost impossible to actually kill there's chemicals you can put on to kill them.

You can cut them down and just keep cutting them down and stay in ahead of them that way but.

[22:58] I don't think anybody is come up with a real way of actually controlling them yet,

okay well if anybody has those at home good luck well try to you know at any bit we can get rid of is helpful

asked about that sort of the downside of all this but what's your favorite natural space around the island and and why

well I think mine is probably the Gibraltar Bay unit of the Detroit River National Wildlife Refuge and the reason why is because it's really a complete.

Wildlife Refuge where people can go and experience nature their signage there there's Trails there there's picnic tables there's observations platforms errors benches.

And it's really well laid out so as far as a place where people can go and enjoy nature that's probably the most developed place on the island for that type of activity,

I really hope

loved hiking in the woods right off Meridian I think it just called Meridian Woods we have a little property with the kiosk there that trail system is beautiful there's been really interesting birds back there every time I've gone,

and it's well-maintained and what what I see when I'm walking out there with the eyes of someone who's paying attention to sort of.

[24:10] Invasive species are native plants is that it's a much more open Woods are invasive species tend to be really thick and tangly there was a lot of invasive shrubs and in that Woods there a lot of them have been removed so you have these sort of views of big trees,

hickories and Oaks and things that should be here

and that means that's really good habitat for Birds haven't been here in the spring but I suspect it's going to be a great spot for frogs and migratory Birds but that's a really delightful is not the parking is right on Meridian so it's not fantastic but it's a really wonderful hike

in there.

[24:45] And with school virtual now you can probably Parker Meridien during the day so true maybe I think probably my favorite spot is sunrise Park I spend a quite a bit of time kayaking on the Detroit river which is

fabulous place to paddle around here and sunrise Park is a really nice,

Beach to launch from it's very easy to launch and and by the way the Conservancy Bill to kayak slide there to get your boats down to the beach and back up again to so

that's really my favorite spot yeah.

Well thank you for sharing all this with me today I'm certain we'll talk more about some particular areas and projects in the future and I'm sure I speak for nearly everyone when I say that I appreciate you and I appreciate the work that you've been doing,

thank you very much and so we've come to the end this is where I asked if you'd like to make a wish for Grosse Ile.

Do you have do you have a wish in mind that you'd like to grant for the for the island.

Well you know this is like a Christmas wish type thing then I guess I would like to see more.

Our Waterfront type access for the residents you know we're on island we're surrounded by water but access to that water is very very limited.

So I think it needs to become a priority for the township Administration the board.

[26:03] To really go after a real part on the water for the residents you know Sunrise Park is really the only thing we have but it's a very very small part it's centrally located it's nice everybody who goes there enjoys it.

But it just isn't does have the size that we need to really accommodate a lot of people.

Yeah my wish is always that people go outside and appreciate whatever the changing seasons are showcasing it.

The reason we live here is because of all this amazing Green Space and the ability to kayak and walk and bike and really see the wildlife here and so I just my wish would be that everyone would go out and do that and if you need some help,

come join one of our programs.

I may be just a pain to that one that I think you know though my personal wishes I wish more of the Islanders new of the good work done by this organization that would.

Volunteer some of their time to help out and make it even better for us all.

[27:01] Absolutely well thanks again for taking the time to talk with me today I really appreciate it.

[27:08] Thank you very much thank you like you said at the start of this episode I really learned a lot from this conversation.

It has really changed how I look at the wild areas I pass every day or at least that I used to pass every day when I was able to leave the house I want you to know that membership is really pretty simple you can use a form and PayPal link on their website to join and the level of giving is completely up to you,

we all benefit from the work being done.

[27:33] This Saturday GI n LC is hosting a guided hike at Gibraltar Bay that Saturday January 9th 2021 at 1 p.m.

Check the web and social media for details links as always are in the description and in the.

[27:47] Now I've been asked how listeners can support the podcast I think it's obvious that I'm not out to make a living from talking about Grosse Ile but I know the lot of listeners appreciate what I'm doing and went to help it succeed,

if you're one of those folks I'm going to make that a little easier look on Facebook and Instagram for ways you can support the effort only one way involves money.

Thanks for your support and I wish you the best that 20:21 has to offer happiest of New Year's gross ew.

What's the Deal Grosse Ile? is recorded and produced by me Ben Fogt. You can keep in touch with me through the What's the Deal, Grosse Ile? Facebook page or email me at

You can share episodes from Facebook or hear them from the website And of course it never hurts to subscribe so you can get the latest episodes through your favorite podcast delivery tool like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and so many others. Our intro and credit music is Mocktails in the Rain by Antii Luodo, which is used through a Creative Commons license. Find more of his music on as Antii's Instrumentals.

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