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Caring for the dunes

Becky Vargo • Jun 22, 2017 at 10:00 AM

New signs installed last week will help visitors navigate the trails at the Kitchel-Lindquist-Hartger Dunes Preserve.

New trail markers will also help guide the way.

The maps will also point the way to the new Meimi VandenBerg Trail, which takes visitors into the northernmost part of the preserve on Grand Haven’s north shore, according to Abby Fischer, a student at Grand Valley State University and the preserve’s summer intern.

The Kitchel-Lindquist-Hartger Dunes Preserve includes 115 acres of natural dune land adjacent to North Shore Marina and Dewey Hill. It is located at 20001 Berwyck St.

VandenBerg was a major contributor to the dune preserve. The trail construction was an Eagle Scout project completed over the winter, Fischer said.

The Meimi VandenBerg Trail goes through the open dunes and surrounds a Great Lakes barren (mix between a forest and a dune). Each trail is just over or under a half-mile, extending through the open dune and pine forests.

Fischer said she’s seen about 40 different species of birds in the dunes since beginning her internship. There are tufted titmice, cedar waxwings, and a lot of barn and tree swallows in the first part of the trail. There are warblers in the pine plantation and an entirely different variety of birds when you get on the Marjorie Hendricks Trail that goes along the Grand River. There’s also a lot of deer, gray squirrels, some raccoon and fox.

While Fischer is responsible for trail maintenance and programs, she also has a research project underway — to characterize the bird species’ richness and composition, she said. She’s basically counting birds and characterizing their habitat type.

Fischer is also helping last year’s intern, Alex Jouney, conduct wetland sampling. Jouney continues to study invertebrates in the 20 wetland areas in the preserve.

Fischer emphasized the importance of people staying on the preserve’s trails.

“They’re living dunes,” she explained. “Excess foot traffic causes erosion and damage to a lot of micro environments.”

There is also the added persuasion to stay on trails because ticks like dune grass, she said. Mostly what they’ve seen at the preserve is the American dog tick, which doesn’t carry Lyme disease. 

“You still want to remove them carefully,” Fischer said.

Volunteer invasive species pull day Saturday

The next volunteer pull day (to remove invasive species) is Saturday, June 24, from 9 a.m. to noon. Meet at the outdoor classroom and wear clothes appropriate for the work and weather. Bring a pair of gloves and a refillable water bottle.

For more information, visit www.kldunespreserve.org/ or the preserve’s Facebook page

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