Plaster Creek Stewards Cleaning Up a Polluted Urban Stream
By Marty Arnold and Ruth Oldenburg
On a rainy, but warm June 18 night some hardy Wild Ones and friends came out to see Plaster Creek Stewards’ (PSC) work at the Christian Reformed Church headquarters at 1700 28th Street SE for our Wild Ones chapter meeting. The creek, which drains 57 square miles of mostly urban landscape is the most polluted stream in West Michigan.
Deanna Geelhoed, PCS Program Coordinator, (pictured at left) said the primary source of that pollution in the Plaster Creek watershed is stormwater—rain or snowmelt that runs over streets, parking lots and yards into storm sewers instead of soaking into the soil. The result is flooding, bank erosion and washing soil and pollutants downstream into the Grand River and eventually Lake Michigan.
“Many people think that storm sewers go to the water treatment plant, “ Geelhoed said, “but in most cases, water runs directly into area lakes and streams.”
We toured the 7 acre CRC grounds where the Plaster Creek Stewards have transformed the property into a sustainable site that catches and filters water runoff naturally. We saw several bioswales, berms, a newly planted oak savannah. The new plantings are restoring what was there before settlers began arriving in the 1850s. A native prairie that was planted from seed in 2016 already has native grasses and forbs dotting the landscape.
Elsewhere in the watershed, the Stewards have created “curb cut rain gardens” in the curbs lawns of some of the homes throughout Alger Heights, Garfield Park, and Oakdale neighborhoods. Paris Ave between Alger and Burton has many curb cuts. Also, there’s a large one at Alger Park Christian Reformed Church, 2655 Eastern Ave. SE. These retain the rain water for trees and plants instead of letting it wash into Plaster Creek.
The PCS project, in its sixth year, focuses is on three areas: education, research, and on-the-ground restoration in the watershed. It is heartening to see an organization of volunteers that is doing so much for the community. Thank you Plaster Creek Stewards!
To learn more about Plaster Creek Stewards click here.