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AmeriCorps team spends final week working on Kalamazoo green space

by Cheryl Roland

june 27, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of AmeriCorps building a new trail at Kleinstuck.
AmeriCorps builds new trail at Kleinstuck
KALAMAZOO--At day's end Thursday, June 30, a team of young AmeriCorps workers from around the nation will wrap up six weeks of work aimed at improving the health of two local nature preserves near the campus of Western Michigan University.

The eight members of the group, all aged 18 to 24, hail from Florida, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas and Michigan. Since May 19, they've been living in WMU residence halls and improving local natural areas by doing invasive vegetation removal, controlling erosion, and educating community members and local schools on environmental stewardship.

The team is part of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, a federal program drawn from the successful models of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military. Young AmeriCorps members make a 10-month commitment to work on projects around the nation. In return, they receive government scholarships to attend college or  pay back existing student loans. This is the first time WMU has completed the rigorous application process and been approved to receive a team.

According to Cari DeLong, manager of WMU natural areas, the AmeriCorps group has been removing invasive plants such as garlic mustard, European privet and dame's rocket, and replacing them with native vegetation grown in WMU's Finch Plant Science Greenhouse. Team members have also improved the trail systems at both preserves by repairing or closing severely eroded trails and creating new ones to minimize visitor impact.

"The AmeriCorps members have also had the opportunity to work with various volunteer groups and organizations such as Tillers International, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, St. Augustine Cathedral School and Stewards of Kleinstuck," DeLong says. "And WMU faculty and staff have really stepped up to enrich the team members' experiences during their stay here."

WMU owns and manages the 50-acre Kleinstuck Preserve and the 274-acre Asylum Lake Preserve. For the past two years, a Natural Areas Program has been in place at WMU to enhance and preserve the natural environments of the two preserves and the campus. The program and its volunteer needs were the focus of WMU's AmeriCorps application.

For more information, contact Cari DeLong, WMU natural areas manager, at or (269) 387-8568.