The Conservation Stewardship Department leads KNC’s scientific and land management activities. Specialties include bird banding, community science, conservation work for endangered species, and managing wildlife habitat.
Over the last 25 years, the Kalamazoo Nature Center has worked closely with Fort Custer Training Center to perform research and land management on the property’s 7,500 acres. KNC has aided efforts to conserve and restore native habitats, support populations of threatened and endangered species, and foster climate resilience. Off The Trail is a five-episode podcast highlighting the KNC conservation collaboration with Fort Custer Training Center.
Calling All Trail Lovers: New Oshtemo Trail in Development
KNC’s Ecological Services team has a long-running partnership with Oshtemo Township. With over 65 acres of land preserved for parks and open space, Oshtemo Township was the first municipality in the region to adopt a Natural Features Protection District ordinance. It was awarded an Environmental Planning Excellence Award from the Michigan Association of Planning in 2019 for the GO! Green Oshtemo Plan.
Oshtemo Township was recently awarded Consumer Energy Foundation’s Planet Award grant for the Fruit Belt Rail Corridor trail project. KNC will be a significant partner in this grant collaborating to provide habitat restoration and environmental education in a two-mile stretch of the historic rail corridor. When rail operations ceased in 1924, tracks were removed and the land returned naturally to forested land with native and invasive vegetation. Reducing pressure exerted by invasive vegetation and planting native species will restore important natural communities that are essential for Michigan’s wildlife and conservation of biodiversity. Grant funds will allow restoration for the ecological health of this natural area and encourage people in the community to discover and develop a deeper relationship with the land.
KNC’s Heronwood Field Station high school biology students will learn field skills with field trips to this site over 2022-2023 educating the next generation of environmental scientists. Signage will be developed for the trail to educate visitors and residents about climate change, native plants, and more!
The Fruit Belt Trail is accessible from Flesher Field community park heading southwest for two miles to South 6th Street and West N Avenue Oshtemo Township is applying for recreation grant funds to construct a fully accessible trail and related trailhead amenities in late 2023 or early 2024, but a footpath is already established for curious explorers. Locals hope to eventually create a longer regional trail connecting the Fruit Belt Rail Corridor, Van Buren Trail, Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, and Kal-Haven Trail to create a 70+ mile loop trail around southwest Michigan!