Ottawa County Parks Foundation – December Newsletter
Bridging Community to Nature
“I am so thankful that you took time to teach us about nature. And how nature used to be in the olden days.” – Chloe H.
Your support continues to have a direct, positive impact on nature education opportunities for our local area children. In the fall of 2020, the Foundation Board made a commitment to connect more children with nature through the support of Parks programming. When fully implemented, the Parks For All initiative will give all Ottawa County fourth-graders a nature education experience, helping to remove barriers that may keep kids from engaging with nature. Supporters like you are making this possible. Thank you!
Last year hundreds of children visited our parks and attended nature programs. They enjoyed the Age of Discovery playground at Hager Park, walking through the tunnel at Tunnel Park to reveal
that magnificent view of Lake Michigan, or attending a nature program with their family or school at Hemlock Crossing. You helped open their eyes to a whole new world.
Those priceless encounters with nature are vital to their wellbeing and overall education. Some of the amazing programs offered at Hemlock Crossing teach children about recognizing and identifying bird songs, bugs, trees, and discovering what lives in river water. Head to our Facebook page to enjoy thank you letters written by children after their visit to the parks.
With your continued support, we can help Ottawa County Parks provide opportunities for all ages to enjoy the benefits of nature! Let’s work together to connect our community to nature.
Right outside my office window is a stately trio of hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis). This lovely native tree is found throughout most Michigan except central and southernmost counties. It can reach a mature height of 60 to 75 feet, and is found only in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada
The flat needles are variable in length, 0.3 to 0.7 inch, and taper slightly. They are attached to the branch by a very short stem. If you turn a leaf over, you’ll see two white bands on the underside. Hemlocks produce small cones which hang at the very tips of the branches, unlike spruce, which holds its cones a bit back from the tip of the branch.
I’ve been watching my hemlocks anxiously for signs of the invasive hemlock wooly adelgid, a pest spreading through the state and threatening hemlock populations. Clumps of white, cottony fuzz are a sign of infestation. Trees can be treated with an injection of pesticide, or you can surround the tree with a soil drench. Treatments last a few years.
Historically, hemlock has been important for lumber and paper pulp. It is used extensively as an ornamental.
Many references in literature mention the use of hemlock as a poison, but it is not the tree that is poison: it is a biennial herb (Conium maculatum), a relative of parsley and Queen Anne’s lace. Hemlock trees, on the other hand, are harmless and even edible. Tea from the twigs is suggested for use in treating kidney ailments, and tea from the bark is said to help with colds, coughs, diarrhea, fevers, and scurvy.
Photo credits: U. of M. Herbarium, R. Schipper
Looking for gift ideas this holiday season?
The Ottawa County Parks Foundation is happy to help. Donate to the Foundation in someone’s honor, and the honoree will receive a thank letter from the Foundation letting them know you made a generous donation in their honor. Put a note in the comments section of the online form with the person’s name and contact information.
Featured Park: Pigeon Creek
Pigeon Creek Park is 282 acres with another 130 adjacent acres of County Open Space land. Over ten miles of ski trails wind through old pine plantations, mature deciduous forests and through bottomland forests along the Pigeon River (off-trail snowshoeing is allowed).
The park is a popular cross country ski destination with groomed trails for both classic and ski skating. Ski trails are groomed, tracked and reset as needed throughout the day. A sledding hill is also provided. Three miles of ski trails and the sledding hill are illuminated for evening use. Hiking, dogs, biking, snowshoeing and horseback riding are not allowed on groomed cross country ski trails. Here is information on trail conditions.