Meeting Minutes 02/04/2004

Friends of Dicken Woods General Assembly

Minutes for the Wednesday, February 4, 2004 meeting at Dicken Elementary School

Attending were Helen & Mason Barr, Mike Champion, Felix Chmiel, Brian Cressman, Jack Eaton, Sandy Foulke, Kay Holsinger & Doug Wood, Stephanie Hunter, Tom Ivacko, Mary Anne Jaeger, Sophia Jan, Tim Kennedy, Theresa Leite, Harvey & Rayelene Mieske, Jan Newton, Deb Norbotten, Bob Palmer, Burt & Nan Perry, David Read, Erik Stalhandske, Leslie Westbury, Marian Williams, Carol & Max Ziegler.

Erik Stalhandske chaired the meeting and opened proceedings at 7:03. All present introduced themselves.

Agenda. Erik reviewed the agendaand asked for any changes. A presentation by David Read, Master Gardener and new member of Friends of Dicken Woods, was added to the agenda.

Parks Dept. Updates. Tom Ivacko reviewed the Park Advisory Commission meeting that he and Jim Boyd attended on 1/19/04. A letter had been submitted to PAC for their meeting packet, outlining FoDW's concerns about the continued possibility that the Ann Arbor District Library would build on DW and also about City Council's apparent rejection of our donation of $50,000 toward the purchase price of Dicken Woods. The letter outlined possible alternative uses of FoDW's funds, to be administered by FoDW in support of improving the woods. That letter also asked for further input from PAC to help FoDW reconcile Council's action with our pledge. PAC debated and strongly affirmed that they expect FoDW to donate the $50,000, based on the assumption that the land would remain as open space and not be sold or developed. In addition, the two Council representatives on PAC (Bob Johnson and Wendy Woods) firmly stated that Council did not reject FoDW's donation, and would in fact welcome it.

Tom also reviewed the latest update from Jayne Miller of the City services area responsible for parks. Miller said the city is scheduled to close the purchase of DW on February 13, and she fully expects that date to hold firm. Once the city owns the property, she expects to speak with the AADL to see if they have any interest in building a branch library on DW, and then she plans to meet with FoDW to take any further steps.

Discussion. Much discussion ensued among the membership regarding all these issues, and focusing on how FoDW could donate the funds with some kind of assurance that DW would remain as open space and not be sold for development at some future point. Conservation easements and/or deed restrictions were discussed, along with the potential difficulties of getting city approval for either such action.

Vote on Funds. Language was proposed and debated at length, and amended a few times. The final language was moved for a vote by Kay Holsinger and seconded by Marian Williams. The final vote was unanimous in favor, with one abstention, for the following statement:

  • "Friends of Dicken Woods will donate $50,000 to the City of Ann Arbor Park Acquisition Fund upon a good faith authoritative commitment from the city to permanently protect as open space the entire 10.14 acres of property known as Dicken Woods."

Master Gardeners Program. Next, David Read, Master Gardener and newest member of FoDW, presented a short overview of the Master Gardener (MG) program, including its history and mission. The MG process requires volunteer service of its members, and much of that service is done currently in other city natural areas such as Bird Hills, Furstenburg, Bandemer, etc. David discussed the possibility of having the MG program partner with FoDW in a long-term effort to help improve the ecological quality of DW by identification and removal of invasive species, planning, nurturing and planting of native species, etc. David's offer was eagerly received by the membership and David received a round of ovations for his wonderful efforts on this front. Discussions will continue between FoDW, the MG program and the City's Natural Areas Preservation Division staff to see if such a partnership is possible.

Budget. Deb Norbotten reviewed the budget. After all expenses (including those approved later in this meeting), FoDW has $42,370 in the bank. There are currently $5,800 of outstanding pledges. $2,100 in previously pledged donations were rescinded after the October 2003 City Council vote to purchase DW left open the possibility of AADL building a branch library on DW. Deb or Erik will recontact the members who have the $5,800 in currently outstanding pledges to provide an update and see if they are now willing to donate those funds. FoDW may also consider recontacting those members who rescinded their pledges to see if they would in fact still donate if we receive assurances from the city that DW will remain as open space, according to the approved resolution above.

Various expenses were discussed, including reimbursements for signs, the environmental report from spring 2003, website charges, and postage. Jack Eaton moved approval of the expenses; Nan Perry seconded the motion, and it was approved unanimously.

Fundraising. Jack noted that we do not yet have $50,000 to donate to the city, as pledged, and so our first order of budget business is to the raise the remaining balance. Erik then spoke about future fundraising ideas. David Barrett, the musician-extraordinaire who was key to organizing the August 2003 benefit concert at the Ark has offered to do it again! David really enjoyed performing the first concert and thinks the DW efforts are worthwhile, so he is willing to put his time in again on our behalf. This is a really wonderful offer. Erik is in touch with the Ark to try to arrange a date. Jack will help Erik on concert planning issues. Other assistance would be very welcome.

In addition to a 2nd Annual DW Benefit Concert, members discussed organizing a 2nd Annual DW neighborhood garage sale. Stephanie Hunter suggested spreading this sale across 5 or 6 (or more) houses this time. Naela Jenkins (via an earlier email message) had offered to help organize the sale again. Stephanie and Leslie Westbury offered to work on this effort too.

Last fall FoDW received an offer to possibly host a fundraising event at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. Brian will now followup to investigate that possibility.

Tom and Judy Ivacko and Brian will investigate T-shirt sales as another fundraising option. Tom modeled his FoDW T-shirt at the meeting (after promising no Superbowl-inspired "shocking moments"). The shirt features the FoDW logo (designed by Brian Cressman and Amanda Humphrey).

It was further noted that FoDW still has not contacted local businesses for fundraising assistance, and that option will be investigated at a future point.

Dicken Elementary. Mary Anne Jaeger, Dicken Elementary Principal, then spoke about the impact on Dicken Elementary of having DW saved as a natural area. Mary Anne expressed the school's appreciation for FoDW's efforts, and supported the new collaboration between the school and FoDW. Mary Anne strongly supported the idea of FoDW making micro-grants to Dicken classrooms to help integrate DW into the educational experience. She noted that in these very difficult budget times, this kind of creative fundraising is very helpful.

Walking Tours. Mike Champion will organize an afterschool walking tour of DW with any interested Dicken teachers and staff. Mike will also host weekly walking tours for any interested individuals. Generally the tours would be scheduled on Saturdays at 11:00am, meeting at the end of Dicken Drive. Contact Mike (mc@xegesis.org; 747-6499) for more information.

Followup note after the meeting: the Dicken Teachers walkthrough has been scheduled for 4 pm on Tuesday 2/10 and the Saturday tours at 11 am will be held the next 2 Saturdays (2/7 & 2/14) starting from the end of Dicken Drive -- no reservations necessary - anyone is welcome to join the walks.

Brian also offered to help arrange to have various nature experts come to do guided nature walks, including possibly for Dicken classrooms.

Trails Committee. Next, Doug Wood, Chair of the newly formed Trails Committee, spoke about the process for planning and establishing a network of trails in DW. Doug encouraged anyone who is interested to provide input to the planning and implementation process. Doug hopes to have initial plans ready to begin first stage work on the most obvious and non-controversial aspects of the trails network as quickly as possible after the scheduled purchase of DW on Feb. 13. The work would need to be coordinated with the city, and the first stage efforts would be designed to not interfere with the eventual DW master plan (see below). The Trails Committee consists of the following individuals: from FoDW: Stephanie Hunter, Mike Champion, Tim Kennedy, Doug Wood (Chair), David Read, and Debbie Johnson; from Dicken Elementary: Mary Anne Jaeger (Principal) and Ken Monash (5th grade teacher); From the Ann Arbor Public Schools: Dave Szczygiel (Environmental Consultant), and yet to be determined members from the City of Ann Arbor.

Master Plan. The meeting wrapped up with Erik noting an agenda item that we didn't have time to discuss: the creation of a Master Plan for DW. The SC will begin efforts to work on a Master Plan (probably a 5-year plan) for the improvement of DW, but this document will need to be coordinated with other organizations, including the city, Dicken Elementary, and hopefully the MG program.

The meeting ended at 8:56 p.m.

Minutes taken by Tom Ivacko.

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