FRANKFORT — Grasslands and meadows are integral parts of the natural Michigan environment and a pair of local nonprofit organizations want area residents to help restore them.
Plant It Wild and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy have partnered on a trio of educational programs in a two-day series focused on the benefits of urban and suburban meadows. The events feature a lecture, field trip and screening of a documentary about the environment.
“We have so many lawns, lawns, lawns. If we could take chunks of those lawns and put in meadows, we can rehabilitate these habitats,” said Cheryl Gross, president of the local Plant It Wild group. “Think of it as a style of landscaping.”
Human development has destroyed wildlife habitat, and meadows of any size can help by providing shelter and food for insects, birds and mammals, she said.
Also, deep roots of grassland plants help filter rainwater runoff in weak Michigan soils and recharge groundwater, Gross said.
The nonprofit groups partnered to bring a nationally recognized documentary filmmaker to northern Lower Michigan to help spread their shared message that meadows — even in small, limited spaces — can help rehabilitate the area’s natural conditions.
Author and filmmaker Catherine Zimmerman will give an evening presentation July 17 in Frankfort. Zimmerman runs the Meadow Project, an effort to educate and raise awareness about sustainable and native land care practices.
Zimmerman will discuss techniques to establish a meadow in urban or suburban surroundings during the free Wednesday night talk.
The next program in the series will be a morning field trip to the grassland area of the C.S. Mott Preserve at Arcadia Dunes on July 18. The conservancy’s senior preserve steward Angie Lucas will help lead the excursion for participants.
“I’m hoping they will get an idea of the role grasslands have in Michigan, why certain wildlife are adapted to native plants and the role they play in the ecosystem,” Lucas said.
Gross said the field trip is also expected to include a brief visit to a private home with a grassland installation on Banktson Road in Benzie County, and perhaps one or two others.
After the field trip to the nature preserve, the final event later that Thursday evening will be a screening of Zimmerman’s film “Hometown Habitat: Bringing Nature Home” at Garden Theater in Frankfort. She will attend a question-and-answer session following the 90-minute movie.
Four Seasons Nursery and Watervale Inn joined the two nonprofit groups to help sponsor the two-day native grassland educational series.
The conservancy is a long-running organization that has protected nearly 42,000 acres of land and more than 125 miles of shoreline in the region, along with management of dozens of public nature preserves. Plant It Wild is a group of native plant proponents founded in 2000.
Visit www.plantitwild.net for more information about the educational series.