Local partners and members of the Huron Pines AmeriCorps worked on cleaning up debris and rebuilding the bridge at Forestview Natural Preserve, which was damaged in May 2020 during the flooding. Photo credit Chris Engle. Photo credit Chris Engle.
After the floods in May damaged the nature preserve, Forestview Natural Area was closed to the public.
“We've had to keep it closed because it's not really safe,” says Shelby Cain, AmeriCorps member and Land Steward for Little Forks Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that is focused on conservation, servicing six preserves and 32 conservation easements throughout Clare, Gladwin, and Midland counties. “The bridge was damaged, there was debris out there, and we just didn't want anyone to get hurt.”
One of the nature preserves serviced by Little Forks, Forestview is a 1.3-mile looped trail that is connected by a bridge.
The bridge is about halfway on the trail, and Cain says that without it people are unable to access the full preserve, unless they cross the creek.
"When the flood came it picked up the bridge and moved it," says Shelby Cain, currently AmeriCorps member and Land Steward at Little Forks Conservancy. "It was damaged and we had to demolish it before we could really get back there with some materials for building the new bridge."
Photo credit Alyssa Walters.
But thanks to members of a national service group who helped clean up and rebuild a bridge in the nature preserve late last month, it’s now open again for visitors to enjoy.
“After the flood we had two other preserves that also had some damage, but not to the same extent as Forestview did,” says Cain. “I worked with some of the Little Forks staff to get those ones cleared up, removing any debris or logs and kind of fixing up the trails, so that the public could use them again.”
"We had to take the old bridge apart completely, so we ended up building a slightly smaller bridge that kind of fits the size of the creek a bit better." says Sara Huetteman, Preserve and Volunteer Manager at Little Forks and previously a member of AmeriCorps.
Photo credit Alyssa Walters.There are 850 acres of nature preserve across Midland and Gladwin County, says Sara Huetteman, preserve and volunteer manager at Little Forks and previously a member of AmeriCorps. “We maintain the trails, remove invasive species, any kind of habitat restoration, and work with volunteers to accomplish that.”
In 2013, Little Forks became a host site for Huron Pines AmeriCorps, which coordinates about 30 AmeriCorps members from all around Michigan.
Huetteman says about 13 AmeriCorps members from around Michigan came out to help with the project, removing debris and rebuilding the bridge on Friday, Sept. 25 for their Day of Caring. Huetteman says the day of service was supposed to be in May but it was canceled because of the pandemic. But the AmeriCorps members were still looking for a project.
Huetteman says that they demolished the old bridge and built a slightly smaller bridge that fits the size of the creek better.
“The bridge had floated up and then moved out of the creek area and settled really weirdly,” says Huetteman. “It was made out of old telephone poles, so it's pretty impossible to move it back without heavy equipment. With such sensitive wetlands around that area, we didn't really want to go that route.”
The assistance from the AmeriCorps members was “huge,” Cain says. “It would have taken us a lot longer had we not had all the help that we did.”
For more information on how to get involved, visit littleforks.org/volunteer, or contact Sara Huetteman at SHuetteman@littleforks.org.