Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gerrits Sanctuary 2014 Spring Nature Walks

Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy

On May 12, 2014 the TLC had a nature walk on the Gerrits Sanctuary for the Rochester Branch of the Women's National Farm and Garden Association. Because Susan Gerrits is a member, they had been interested in seeing the sanctuary and looking at the native forest plants. Good weather and the wetlands were wet. We had to break a little early because of an incoming thunderstorm. What a different world now when someone can track an incoming storm on radar with their smart phone. Everyone learned something and had a good time. Afterwards, we all had lunch at The Raft restaurant on Anchor Bay and we even made plans for a special botanical rescue mission.

Then on May 18, 2014, we had a special day on the Gerrits Sanctuary to celebrate the 12th birthday of Rose Gerrits, granddaughter of Dr. James and Lois Gerrits, and daughter of Susan Gerrits. Rose invited her friends and family to spend the day on the land once owned by her grandparents. She made a request to the TLC through her mother, to "take everyone to the forest in St. Clair to clean up”, and also asked “people to bring presents to donate to charity".

Well, we had great weather and a fun time. It was the perfect time to be in the forest to see all the new spring wildflowers and hear the woodland birds that had just arrived north for the summer. The swamp was good and wet, excellent for log crossings. All this, and no mosquitoes. Yay!

Rose and friends

Cheryl and Susan


We found the perfect tree for a group photo.

We spent quite a while in the southwest end of the sanctuary and I more fully realized what a high quality forest community it is. There are many uncommon plant species relict from the forest before European settlement. As I had observed about 13 years earlier in connection with trying to protect a nearby woods in Macomb County, the interior of this large forest tract contains tip-up mounds of moist sand with northern plant species like clubmosses, Starflower, and Goldthread. Some areas look surprisingly like habitat for Michigan Endangered Painted Trillium – Trillium undulatum, and it would be quite a surprise to find it that far south in Saint Clair County.

Upland and swamp forest complex in southwest of Gerrits Sanctuary, showing American Beech, Yellow Birch, and Mayapple, among other species.

One of the clubmosses in the forest, Ground-pine - Lycopodium obscurum.

After our time in the forest, we all had a birthday picnic at a nearby playground in Hometown Anchor Bay modular park. This was a very nice day to spend on the Gerrits Sanctuary, especially thinking back on our 3 years of trouble with Ira Township and the City of New Baltimore. I look forward to more days like this.