AL!VE Preserve project kicks off with help from community partners

AL!VE has been open since December and has seen great success with its first phase. Yet Hayes Green Beach and the community aren’t finished developing the destination health park. As construction progresses on the next phase of AL!VE inside, activity can also be seen outside in Preserve, its grassland prairie.

The architecture of Preserve will expand the walking trail from inside AL!VE to one that meanders throughout the native plants, grasslands and gardens. It will eventually include adventure programming and physical fitness areas. Plus there will be opportunities for individuals and groups to learn about plants, wildlife and conservation. Signage will be placed throughout the trails, and student groups will be able to support the preserve by growing and maintaining specific areas

AL!VE is an array of health and well-being experiences and services. Its goal is to be a catalyst for health and well-being by removing barriers to healthy behaviors and giving individuals the tools and knowledge needed to make healthier lifestyle and behavior choices. 

"Preserve will provide the opportunity to educate the community on the relationship between a healthy environment and personal and community health," said Barbara Fulton, HGB director of community and organizational development. "It will be a place of learning about the ‘roots’ – literally and figuratively – of this rural area."

Preserve is a collaborative project that includes investment, support and volunteer efforts by various organizations, including the Eaton Conservation District, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Wildlife Program, Eaton County Pheasants Forever and the Doty Wildflower Association.

“Native prairie plantings provide several benefits,” said Andrea Stay, executive director of the Eaton Conservation District. “Planting with native plants is a way to preserve an entire ecosystem. The deep roots prevent erosion and allow rain water to infiltrate slowly, and the plants create a natural habitat for many birds and wildlife.”

Site preparation is an important step to remove existing turf grass and weeds.  This is why many of the plants and grasses look as though they are brown and dying.

In this first year of development there were three phases, Stay said. 

1. The large prairie section on the west side was seeded in early summer with a mix of grasses and wildflowers.
2. Rain gardens were planted in early summer. 
3. Grasses and wildflowers were recently planted on the berms in mid-July.

Species planted include Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, Little Bluestem, Switchgrass, Blazing Star, Gray-Headed Coneflower, Butterfly Weed, Black-Eyed Susan, Moth, Coreopsis, Leadplant, and many more.  

“It will take about three years to fully develop the grassland prairie, so each year we will continue to see the plants develop,” Stay said.

During those three years it will take funding and many hands to complete the entire project, Fulton 

"But when it’s completed, Preserve will be accessible to the entire region without cost," Fulton said. "It will be an additional site for outdoor exercise and lifelong learning that can be integrated with an overall wellness program."

Community members interested in learning more about the project will be able to monitor its progress at Photos and updates will be posted as Preserve develops. You can also find out how to support the project on the website or call 517-541-5913.