In an effort to improve the local native plant population, the Grand Rapids chapter of the Wild Ones organization are taking part in the construction of a prairie located on Fulton Street behind the Marywood Health Center.
The Grand Rapids Wild Ones organization is focused on promoting the establishment of communities of native plants around homes, schools, and businesses using ecological practices. They are planning on fulfilling this initiative by collaborating with volunteers, as well as the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, by creating a prairie that will be host to an ecosystem of strictly native plants. Native plants have evolved over thousands of years to live in our climate, and come with a number of benefits:
- Elimination of the need for fertilizers or chemicals that would seep into the groundwater supply.
- Food and cover for wildlife.
- Increase in biodiversity. The native plants will boost the population of native insects, as well as native birds and animals.
- Reduce air and noise pollution.
- Prevent erosion.
- Deeper root systems substantially increase ability to absorb and retain water.
- Education within the community.
Around 1919, the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids purchased 27 acres of land that had been a farm. For most of that time much of the area where the prairie was located was dedicated to lawn. With the construction of the Marywood Health Center in 2006, a bioswale was seeded to catch the runoff from the new building and accompanying parking lot. No one attended to the plants until summer 2011 when a few people, including some of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids and a member of the River City Wild Ones, expressed interest in restoring the area to native species. The prairie will be a helpful buffer to absorb stormwater runoff, as well as nourish plants.
Organization members have began the process of removing invasive species in the one acre area reserved for the prairie. Numerous methods of removal for the invasives have been performed, including a prescribed burn which was conducted in February. The Wild Ones have been fortunate in having the Dominican Sisters’ assistance with the cultivation of the prairie, and trust that in a few years the prairie will become even more beautiful than it is today.