Urban Nature Park
Located at 426 E. Michigan Avenue in downtown Kalamazoo, the Urban Nature Park (UNP) is a 4-acre green space running along the Portage Creek and Michigan Avenue. The former Brownfield site has been recently planted with native prairie plants, and is now open to the public with a hiking and biking trail running through the park!
When KNC secured the property in downtown Kalamazoo 8 years ago, we wanted to demonstrate that abandoned industrial sites can offer ecological value to urban communities. We began by cleaning up broken concrete, contaminated sediments, and trash. The Environmental Protection Agency then cleaned up PCB contaminants. Then we removed old fill dirt to bring the wetland area back to floodplain level. This allowed flood waters to soak into the area rather than to flood upstream. We repaired the historic railroad bridge by creating an overlook. The property’s upland area was contoured to add some small rolling hills, and a shortgrass prairie was planted.
This past summer, native plants could be seen sprouting up in rows throughout the upland area. Although we are seeing some competition from weedy grasses, KNC has been managing to allow sunlight to reach the native seedlings. We will continue this strategy in 2018. Once the native plants are well established, we will stop mowing and allow this shortgrass prairie to reach its full height of 2 to 3 feet tall.
Many thanks to our pioneering UNP monitors! A number of volunteers have committed to walking the park weekly to pick up trash, send updates to KNC staff, and most importantly, enjoy the park and show others that it’s a great place to visit. We hope you’ll visit, too!