It was in southern Michigan that I first fell in love with prairie and savanna habitats, and so a favorite place to visit, when in Ann Arbor for a gig, is the Children's Wet Meadow Project in Buhr Park. There was a time when tall grass prairies extended into southern Michigan, with stately bur oaks sometimes rising above to create savannas. The persistent grass stems and oak leaves would invite what I call "mildfires" to sweep through, recycling nutrients and creating a clean slate for the next year's growth. And so some of these wet meadows are burned annually by professionals, while neighborhood families gather some distance back to enjoy this controlled, elegant horticultural show that speaks to a wild past. Kids then scatter wildflower seeds in the ashes.
I've written about it in other posts, about how her love of people, plants, and the local Mallett's Creek spurred a community initiative to turn turfgrass into native grassland. Since Jeannine ran a daycare for many years, this has very much been a kid-powered project, as can be seen during workdays and in the signs that explain how the meadows filter runoff headed for the creek.
Though a native meadow can be low-maintenance, it still requires ongoing vigilance to pull invasive species before they get established. A food forest, too, is only as good as the care it receives.
Congratulations to Jeannine and all the other volunteers who have brought prairies back to life in Buhr Park.