Stewardship protects open space

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published December 19, 2017

 Busy roads handle traffic close to green space near Livernois and Avon roads.

Busy roads handle traffic close to green space near Livernois and Avon roads.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROCHESTER HILLS — Rochester Hills Parks Director Ken Elwert said officials want to “take a deep dive” into open space stewardship.

A long-term city green space stewardship program allows for control of invasive plants, prairie restoration and increased access for nature lovers.

In 2005, Rochester Hills voters approved a 0.3-mill, 10-year levy to acquire and preserve green space. In 2013, voters approved revising permissible use of the millage revenue to provide for stewardship — including the protection, care and maintenance of green spaces, and to improve pedestrian accessibility.

The Rochester Hills Green Space Advisory Board aims to develop strategies regarding preserving natural green spaces, wildlife habitats and scenic views. The board is focused on protecting woodlands, wetlands, rivers and streams while expanding the Clinton River greenway and other trail corridors.

Invasive species are a threat to wildlife and can be controlled through stewardship, according to  GSAB members.

“The green spaces have so many invasive species that are starting to take over that we are losing bullfrogs and turtles and things like that,” Rochester Hills City Councilwoman Susan Bowyer said. “Some of the invasive species have no nutritional value for our current wildlife.”

Bowyer is the City Council representative on the GSAB.

Stewardship goals include improving pedestrian accessibility to and within the city’s green spaces. To date, the city has acquired approximately 123 acres of designated green space.

By a unanimous vote Dec. 11, the Rochester Hills City Council approved the continuation of a contract with Niswander Environmental LLC, of Brighton, for natural features stewardship program consulting services. The new $230,000 contract will be funded through the city’s green space millage.

“They have done an excellent job for us,”  Elwert said. “This will put us five years into (a) 10-year maintenance project.”

Each spring, the city’s GSAB organizes a discovery walk in one of the city’s green spaces.

“This year it will be at the Harding green space, which is where it was last year, but we want more people to come because it is where Niswander has been concentrating its efforts,” Bowyer said. “You can see the pond and the prairies.”  

The almost 30-acre Harding Road green space property is located on both sides of the Clinton River Trail, east of Livernois Road and north of Avon Road. The property features scenic bluffs, giving visitors the opportunity to view a variety of wildlife.

“Niswander is doing a great job of keeping the phragmites out and getting rid of the burberry bush so we can actually walk these green spaces and enjoy some of the nature in there,” Bowyer said. “Letting some of the original plants come back, which are what these animals need.”

A map of Rochester Hills green space acquisitions can be found at www.rochesterhills.org.