AmeriCorps Volunteer
The Au Sable River Watershed Committee became a host site for a Huron Pines AmeriCorps volunteer in 2011. From the beginning, the Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter has been a major partner in this endeavor along with the Au Sable Big Water Preservation Association and the Au Sable River Property Owner's Association. The volunteer serves 900 hours in the watershed beginning in May. Hosting a volunteer means being able to take on projects that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

River Mapping, 2014

Since 2011 the Au Sable River upstream of Pollack Bridge has been a focus of the Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter of Trout Unlimited (MGFTU). Salling Dam impaired this section of the river for years and upon its removal, fish passage was improved, but the river was still overly wide and provided little habitat for fish and macro-invertebrates. To address these problems MGFTU began working on this stretch in 2011 and 2012 with the DNR, placing a few spawning riffles in the river. Receiving a Habitat Improvement Account (HIA) Grant for 2013 and 2014, through the DNR as a result of Consumers Power funds put aside for this type of work, enabled them continue this work more extensively. College students hired through North Point Fisheries worked to make or improve structures in the river. These structures helped narrow and quicken the river and provided habitat for juvenile and adult trout and macro-invertebrates. To further improve this section of the Au Sable, MGFTU applied for another HIA Grant for 2015 and 2016.

Mapping the next section of the river, below Pollack Bridge, is necessary to facilitate habitat structure placement in 2015 and 2016. Karen Harrison, MGFTU President, commented, “This is a great precursor to our work for next year and will help us define where structures will go for the grant next year.” Mapping shows the characteristics of the river before work is accomplished, and mapping will be done again a couple of years after work is completed. This comparison will show changes in the river’s characteristics and provide information on what type of structures worked and the effect they had on the river. To make one of these maps, width and depth are measured every 20 ft, substrate and existing structures are noted, and everything is drawn in 100 ft increments. A total of 2.2 miles needs to be mapped before structures are placed in 2015 and 2016.

This September Kristina Preble, a Huron Pines AmeriCorps volunteer serving with the Au Sable River Watershed Committee (ASRWC) in partnership with MGFTU, coordinated river mapping on the Au Sable below Pollack Bridge. For seven days five volunteers worked alongside Kristina to complete this year’s mapping. Boyd Dillon, Marie Harrington, Megan Moore, David Smith, and Claire Wood helped complete 6,010 ft (1.1 miles) of mapping. During this period, property owners showed a great deal of kindness. Many allowed volunteers to use their driveways as access points to the river and put the boat and materials on their banks after each day of mapping. Some went above and beyond by offering water, facilities, friendly conversation, and even warm chili on a very cold day. With partnership and shared dedication to the Au Sable, work like this allows us all to enjoy the river fully. The efforts put forth this September by everyone involved will undoubtedly be seen in the coming years.

A Great Story
by Claire Wood
The day started off early as members of the Mason-Griffith Founder’s Chapter of Trout Unlimited arrived and gathered round with their thermoses of coffee to begin our most recent project: restoring Townline and Wakeley Bridge Roadend access sites on the Mainstream of the Au Sable River. Just a few days after many of us had taken a Chainsaw Certification class, we were excited for what was in store: we would get the chance to fell a tree using our newfound skills. We set off to do just that at the Knight Tract, a piece of TU property. We watched as one member tested out a newly learned technique, the bore cut, and successfully fell a red pine to replace the existing rotting log at the roadend we would tackle that day. The camaraderie of the group was apparent as the project commenced smoothly: we jet-pumped posts into the ground to hold the recently stripped pine, planted the sticky log into its final resting place, and added gravel to fill in. The log should prevent erosion into the river due to heavy use of the site.  A fisherman soon approached with his drift boat, remarking on how nice of an improvement we had made to his little piece of the river. It was a treat to see tangible evidence of our work, and the appreciation of the community in the very same day the improvement was made. It was also special to make an impact on two little girls who curiously watched as we planted cedar saplings along the bank at the road end across from their cabin. The girls shyly approached and were interested in what we were doing. One volunteer, an elementary school teacher, reached out to them and taught them a little bit about what we were doing. She pointed out that one day, when these little girls grow up and bring their children to their cabin on the river, the cedars would be grown up and they can say they were there when those cedars were just planted. The girls witnessed community members coming together to make a difference and improve their environment, and that could impact them years down the road. They took away a positive image of community service and caring for the land they play on and use. Within my first week of service as an AmeriCorps member with the Au Sable River Watershed Committee, I participated in bringing about a positive change in the environment in which I live, and got to see firsthand people’s reactions to this change. This is what I was looking for when I joined AmeriCorps: making a difference and encouraging others to as well. I am certainly looking forward to many similar experiences to come throughout my term of service.

Introducing our 2013 AmeriCorps Volunteer...

Claire Wood

Claire Wood comes to the Au Sable River with a versatile background of professional and academic experience. She is a Lansing native and a 2010 graduate of Michigan State University where she received her B.A. specializing in Political Science and International Studies. While in college, she spent a semester abroad studying French at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

For the past year, Claire worked at McGraw-Hill Education in Chicago as an Editorial Coordinator. In this role, she gained valuable career experience publishing college textbooks for the disciplines of Marketing and Management. Before that, she worked as a Legal Advocate at the Lansing non-profit Eve, Inc., providing legal support to survivors of domestic violence. Here, she discovered her passion in helping others and interest in the non-profit sector.

Claire has served her community volunteering as an English tutor for international students and teachers at MSU and the Refugee Development Center in Lansing. She was also part of the production team for a documentary film on homelessness commissioned by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. These experiences were eye-opening and led her to promise herself she would seek meaningful work that could bring it all together, incorporating her talent for communication and her passion for making a positive difference in the world.

In her free time, Claire enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing, as well as traveling, reading, writing, and cooking. She looks forward to exploring the beauty of Northern Michigan and learning as much as she possibly can about conservation.

Claire fell in love with the natural world early in her childhood, spending summers between her grandmother’s eighty-acre farm in West Michigan and trips to Colorado each summer, where her extended family planned and built a cabin together looking up at Mt. Elbert and across the stream from Rocky Mountain National Park. A Michigan girl and outdoor lover, a year of working in the big city convinced her she had to abandon the corporate climb and follow her passion of getting involved in a meaningful organization that was helping to better the community and environment.

Claire believes that we are extremely fortunate to live in such a unique state, and we must make it a priority to fight for our most precious resources: our lakes, rivers, and forests and their ecosystems. She is excited to be a part of such an effort and can’t wait to immerse herself in serving with the Au Sable River Watershed Committee as a Huron Pines AmeriCorps volunteer. 

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