Friends of Dicken Woods Stewardship Overview


With the city's decision in the fall of 2003 to purchase Dicken Woods for inclusion in the city's park system, the Friends of Dicken Woods main focus changed from preserving the woods to beginning an active stewardship program to preserve, protect and improve the natural area.

Activities

Having already conducted a cleanup day in the spring of 2003, the second stewardship activity the Friends undertook was a tree planting celebration/dedication on November 29, 2003 (see the event photos). The Friends worked closely with the staff from Dicken Elementary School in the event planning, as a preliminary step in the future partnership between the Friends and the school. Over 85 people attended the celebration, including Dicken students and teachers, as well as representatives from the city (including City Council, the Park Advisory Commission and the Planning Commission) and the Director of Properties from the Catholic Diocese of Lansing (which owned the land until the city purchase).

Also in the late fall of 2003 and early winter of 2004, the Friends initiated planning for a trails system in the woods. The Friends created a Trails Committee chaired by Doug Wood of FoDW, and consisting of representatives from the Friends, Dicken Elementary, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Environmental Education Consultant, and representatives from the City Parks and Recreation Department. The committee was charged with designing and overseeing the implementation of a trails system while minimizing disruption of the wetlands and animal habitat.

Spring, 2004: Trails, Clean-Up, Dicken School Microgrants
FoDW undertook a variety of stewardship activities in the spring of 2004. The Trails Committee was extremely active, coordinating plans with the school, the city, and the surrounding neigborhoods. Weekly DW walking tours were conducted on Saturdays at 11:00am, departing from the end of Dicken Drive. Input was gathered on issues related to possible trails locations. And plans for the initial trail system were in place for work to begin by the May 8, 2004 2nd annual Dicken Woods spring cleanup day.

The 2nd annual DW spring cleanup day was planned for May 8th, 2004, from 10:00am-1:00pm. Plans were coordinated with the city and priorities were identified to first collect and remove trash (large and small), and then to begin working on the trails cutting, and finally, if enough people were involved, to begin removing the invasive Dames Rocket plant. Prior to the cleanup day, various members of FoDW collected larger trash (misc. rusted metal pieces, old chairs, etc.) at the old farmhouse spot in DW, so that it could be more quickly removed on cleanup day. FoDW reached out again to the Dicken Elementary families and the surrounding neighbors to join the cleanup efforts.

Also during the spring of 2004, the Friends continued their fundraising efforts to raise the balance of the $50,000 pledge to the city of Ann Arbor. Requests for additional donations were sent out, individual contacts were made, and plans were put in place for both a second neighorhood garage sale, and a 2nd benefit concert. With a targeted donation from one member, FoDW also made microgrants to Dicken Elementary School to start the process of integrating DW into the school experience. The microgrants funded presentations to the entire school by 2 separate individuals, one focused on birds and natural areas, the other on reptiles and natural areas. An initial presentation on the birds was so well received by the students and teachers of the 5th grade classrooms that other teachers requested follow-up presentations for the rest of the school, leading to the first microgrant-funded activities mentioned here.

Future Plans and Next Steps

As of Fall 2005, the Friends began the process of creating a long-term DW management plan, to help guide us in the coming years and to provide a vision for how we imagine DW in the future. The first draft of that master plan was approved by the Friends on March 29, 2006. The plan will be a "living document" to be updated as needed. In addition, the Friends have identified a core set of activities that will be carried out regularly, including: the grant program to Dicken classrooms; trail maintenance/chipping; Sunday afternoon mini-work days; removal of invasive species such as buckthorn and dames rocket; an annual spring cleanup day; beautification of the park perimeter; spreading of wildflower seeds; partnering with other service organizations such as cub scouts and girl scouts; and an annual midwinter candlelight walk.

The Friends are committed to making Dicken Woods a wonderful community amenity and environmental education resource for Dicken Elementary School. Stay tuned for future updates. And join the fun if you'd like! By joining the Friends mailing list, you'll be kept up to date on future activities.  To join the mailing list, send an email to "tivacko at yahoo.com."