by Kennedy Zittel, Assistant Naturalist
This past Saturday I had the privilege of representing Woodland Dunes during the grand opening of the Henry’s Wetland Restoration Project, and I was completely blown away by not only how well the project is doing but also how wonderful everyone was that attended. We always talk about how everyone involved with Woodland Dunes truly feels like a family with how helpful and generous they all are, which has never been more apparent to me than it was during this event. Before we began tours of the site we all stood in a circle and talked about who we were and why Woodland Dunes is special to each person. It was beyond amazing to get to hear everyone say how long they have been either volunteering, supporting, or even simply just visiting Woodland Dunes for in some cases even longer than I have been alive. Each person there shared the same love that I have for the land that I get to work on each day, and it was so wonderful seeing others share that passion.
Stories were shared about how what had started off as Bernie’s dream with only a few acres to start with has now turned into the large preserve we all know and love. That dream was accomplished due to not only Bernie’s passion and perseverance but also thanks to the help of all of the amazing people that care about Woodland Dunes’ mission. With each project and parcel that gets added on we are able to work towards our overall mission statement that Woodland Dunes stands for. Woodland Dunes strives to not only restore and maintain the unique habitat that we have here but also to educate the public about nature and why it holds value.
The Henry’s Wetland Project truly encompasses both of those goals, with the help of Dr. Jon and Annette Henry for their donation, Stantec and the DNR (and many more people) for their hard work, we were able to restore that area to what it would have been pre-settlement. During the grand opening and afterward, we are able to educate people about what that site is and why it holds so much value. Due to its close proximity to Lake Michigan as well as the large forests nearby, this area is going to be an amazing stopover site for migratory birds. The sea of flowers that are blooming there is also going to be home to countless pollinators too. The wildlife has already started pouring into the area, and I cannot wait to see how many more species will come as the wetland continues to progress. As we walked around the site I was able to learn even more than I was probably teaching. People were pointing out plants to me and telling me how to identify them, showing me interesting insects they found, and simply just sharing knowledge about the area that I previously was not aware of before.
Though it seems that I will never catch up with how much everyone helping and working here seems to already know, each day that I spend here I get to walk away learning so much and I am forever grateful for all of the people that I get to meet through working here at Woodland Dunes. As it was said during the event, I am a part of the “younger” group of Woodland Dunes supporters, and I am happy to see that I am not the only one my age caring for the environment the way that I do. As time goes on more volunteers that are my age are coming to help, and of course our wonderful interns too. By educating kids and showing them early on how wonderful nature can be, they can grow into the people that will care for it the way that we all do, and I am so happy to be a part of that teaching as well here. I look forward to one day standing around at an event far into the future and getting to share how much Woodland Dunes has changed from when I started (for the better of course) and how much Woodland Dunes has meant to me from the first time I stepped onto the preserve. Thank you to everyone that attended the event for making it a wonderful experience, and thank you to everyone that continues to help Woodland Dunes be the amazing place that it is.
photo: prairie at Henry property