FLINT TWP. — He can tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and the butterflies and the weeds — all part of ongoing beautification and conservation efforts at the Flint Township Park on Norko Drive.
Peter Mikelens, a local physician, addressed the township board at its May 16 meeting, giving a detailed nature talk about volunteer efforts to make the park an unexpected green space in an area better known for the bricks and mortar of commercial/ retail development.
“I invite you to go there” said Mikelens, who is a member of The Gleaner Greater Flint-Area Arbor, a non-profit fraternal group which donated $2,000 for an annual clean-up and beautification day on May 7 at the park. Fifty-seven volunteers —19 adults and 38 youth — logged an estimated 270 combined hours of planting, pruning and cleaning work, Mikelens said.
Youth participants were from Faith Missionary Church on Elms Road, the 4 – H Club Country Clovers from Davison, and Rotary Club youth from Powers High School, he said.
They spread five cubic yards of mulch, planted 21 one-gallon plants, 15 twogallon shrubs, and two flats of flowers. They cleaned up flower beds and litter and cut down invasive buckthorn and autumn olive trees. They also cut down 32 trees including those with emerald ash borer infestation, Mikelens reported.
He also led a nature walk for Flint Township Parks Commissioners and other interested participants.
Prompted at the board meeting by Township Supervisor Karyn Miller, Mikelens summarized conservation efforts to make the park a haven for bluebirds and butterflies.
Bird houses built by volunteers have been placed in the park to attract bluebirds, he said. The houses were constructed and placed according to the specifications of the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota, a conservation group trying to stem the decline of cavity nesters like bluebirds.
Mikelens also described plantings in the park selected to aid the preservation of Monarch butterflies that also are fast-becoming an endangered species. Milkweed is commonly regarded as a nuisance and destroyed but is vital to Monarch reproduction.
The butterflies will only lay eggs on milkweed plants and the emerging caterpillars live on the plants until they become butterflies. Milkweed contains a chemical that makes caterpillars poisonous to predators and thus enables them to complete their life cycle.
By planting milkweed, the Flint Township Park volunteers have joined a conservation effort spanning three countries that is providing way stations along the 1,200 to 2,800-mile migratory path of Monarchs from Mexico to Canada.
“We’re providing a butterfly habitat,’’ said Mikelens who also mentioned other nectar-producing flowers placed in the township park to feed the butterflies. Changes in habitat and climate are making it difficult for Monarchs to survive.
Mikelens said he was pleased that some residents responded to a notice in the newspaper about the clean-up day at the park and came out to help.
“We want the community to have a sense of ownership in the park,” Mikelens said. “Anybody who sees something that needs to be done can easily get approval from the parks commission.’’
Township supervisor Miller praised Mikelens group for the work in the park including paying for fertilizer, weed clearing, dirt, mulch and flowers.
‘We applaud your presentation and the work you did. We applaud the Gleaners,’’ Miller said.
“The park is looking really good. We thank you very much.”