Archived News

New Rain Gardens Installed at Thurston Elementary School and Briarcliff

During the early fall of 2009, a 1,400 square foot rain garden was installed at Thurston Elementary School in Ann Arbor, and another installed down the street at the corner of Briarcliff and Prairie. The successful projects were a result of a partnership between the Huron River Watershed Council, environmental consulting group JFNew, the city of Ann Arbor, landscape company Michigan Hardscapes, and a large group of dedicated volunteers. Rain gardens are a great way to keep water bodies like Millers Creek and the watersheds they make up clean and safe from stormwater runoff. Rain gardens are planted in low depressions in the ground with native water-loving plants. When it rains, water collects in the rain garden instead of making its way into storm drains, through sewers, and thus emptying into rivers like Millers Creek. Millers Creek is then safe from stormwater runoff, which can include high concentrations of pollutants, and keeps water levels lower to prevent high water speeds and erosion. Rain gardens also clean water before it enters groundwater collections by filtering it through plant roots and soils, which take up the excess nutrients or bind them into particles that will not travel into other water bodies. Rain gardens are a great way to keep our watersheds healthy!

Click here to visit the Huron River Watershed Council's Millers Creek Rainwater Project website for more information on HRWC's rainwater mitigation activities in the Millers Creek watershed.

Click here to read more about this and other Fall 2009 rain garden installations in the Ann Arbor area.

Click here to view the installation plans for the Thurston Elementary rain garden.

Visit the Huron River Watershed Council to get more information on how to install your very own rain garden, or other ways to help keep Millers Creek clean and healthy. also has good information on the how-to's of rain gardening.

New sign designating and describing the new rain     The Briarcliff rain garden sign
garden installed at Briarcliff

Colin Brooks and son Isaac enjoying some fun in the dirt as they plant native
seedlings in the new Briarcliff rain garden

March 13, 2009

Fourth Millers Creek Film Festival a Great Success!

A crowd of about 350 people enjoyed 16 entertaining short films about the human connections to all parts of the Huron River system at the fourth annual Millers Creek Film Festival of locally made films organized by the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) in the Michigan Theater on Friday, March 13th.

The annual event offers filmmakers of all ages a chance to inspire people to enjoy and protect the Huron, one of the area's most beautiful natural features. HRWC will use the films in education to help communities and individuals learn what they can do to help protect the future of our fresh water.

Marty Stano, an independent filmaker, took the Millie (a beautiful glass trophy) for best Public Service Announcement for his hilarious and thought-provoking, "Runoff Lemonade." Each of the Millies was accompanied by a $500 cash award.

John Inwood received a Millie for his short film titled "60 Second PSA" about the importance of disposing used oil properly and not into the storm drain. John is a film student at Washtenaw Community College.

The third Millie went to 10-year old Nani Wolf at Ann Arbor's Emerson School for her film, "You Love Your Dog" in the School-age category. Nani's film examined closely and convincingly the importance of picking up after your dog.

Another film in the School-age category persuaded the judges to award it an Honorable Mention. "Carnegie's Scholars" are a fifth grade class at Northside Elementary in Ann Arbor who made a claymation film to inform the public how pollution from storm drains impacts the Huron River.

Blair Neighbors from Milford, also received Honorable Mention from the judges for beautifully communicating the value of the river in just 30 seconds in his film, "Life is Hectic." Blair, who began film school in Los Angeles this year, has been a contender in each of the past three contests and won the Millie last year.

The judges were Filmaker Chris Cook, Senator Liz Brater, and aquatic ecologist Professor Steve Francoeur.

A souvenir DVD of the winning films is available at cost for $5 from Jason Frenzel at or (734) 769-5123 x 11.

More Festival images available upon request.

September 2008

Monitoring Success

The Adopt-A-Stream Program's fall monitoring was a great success. Over 110 people sampled aquatic insect populations at 40 sites in the Huron River watershed. Four study sites were located on Millers Creek. To learn the results or to be part of the study, call Paul or Jason at (734) 769-5123.

April 29, 2008

HRWC will give a presentation at Orchard Hills-Maplewood Homeowners' Association meeting and have an information booth at the annual Ice Cream Social/Used Book Sale at Thurston School from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. HRWC will discuss our work and projects in the neighborhoods surrounding Thurston Elementary School. We want to help residents capture the rain with rain gardens, rain barrels, professional native plant landscaping and other storm-water retention options suitable for homeowners. Please come and bring a friend!

Location: Thurston Elementary School, 2300 Prairie Street, Ann Arbor 48105

April 29, 2008

We had a marvelously successful River RoundUp on Saturday with 176 people, many from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter and Ypsilanti. Teams of enthusiastic families and other residents studied 54 sites on the Huron River and its streams. People who passed by the teams took an interest in the creek and the study.

Several things surprised people: that such a great variety of creatures are living in our streams, that you can learn about the health of a river by examining its streams, and that streams are much nicer when natural land is preserved nearby even if the land is developed, as long as the developed area is small.

The study included Fleming, Malletts, Traver and Millers Creeks and sites on the Huron River. The results will be available from the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) following analysis of the data. Results from recent studies can be viewed at

HRWC welcomes people who would like to participate in measuring many aspects of the creek. There is no charge for training or participation. The next event will be on September 20th. Please contact Jason Frenzel at or (734) 7123 X. 11.

November 1, 2007

Wonderful Fall Festival!

On Sunday October 21, 2007 Orchard Hills-Maplewood Homeowners Association held their first Fall Festival and it was a great success. Over 100 people enjoyed the hour-long raptor show from the Leslie Science Center (which featured a live kestrel, great horned owl, and yearling bald eagle) and people came and went throughout the afternoon. There was a variety of nature-oriented and other playful activities for kids and adults, including three separate tree tours led by Mike Conboy, showing some of the more than 90 species of trees (60 native to Michigan) planted since the early 1960's by folks in the neighborhood. There are trees in a woodlot that predate the subdivision; they are over a century old! People signed up for our Adopt-A-Tree program. An enjoyable, hour-long program by various neighborhood musicians, with Master of Ceremonies Steve Rapundalo, concluded the afternoon's program.

Show and Tell:
Members of the Nature Center Committee (Neal Foster, Georgia White-Epperson, and her 9-year old son James) collected whatever critters we could find all around the periphery of the Thurston Pond and set up a display of them in jars so people could see them close up: damselfly and dragonfly nymphs, water boatmen, backswimmers, whirligig beetles, 2 other kinds of water beetles, crayfish, a scud, a goldfish, and some fathead minnows. (Though the minnows are small, they are abundant in the pond and provide some sustenance for our egrets and herons.)

A portion of our display is shown in the sixth image at

Good Information Presented:
There was a talk about the pond, including the basic problem of being "hypereutrophic" (too much algae), and also stormwater-related problems such as the need for the footing drain disconnect program, the flashy flow regime and the problems it causes downstream from the pond in Millers Creek, the planned installation of stormceptors on Bluett and the diversion of water from the footing drains connected to the storm sewer running southward along Antietam and then into Thurston Pond.

Deep sediment, which has accumulated for over 40 years, is a major problem in the pond. Although there is a project to improve the pond, the funds for that cannot be used to remove the sediment.

The Thurston Nature Center Committee (TNCC) is working on several tasks, thanks to the help of a contractor from the city's footing drain disconnect program. They include restoring the original height of the berm where it has settled over the years and widening at least a portion of the access path to make it more handicapped-accessible.

The Future:
The HRWC will soon work with folks in our neighborhood to help people to install rain barrels, rain gardens, etc.

The TNCC is seeking grant support for a phased program of pond basin improvement to enhance habitat conditions for fish and wildlife. Such re-contouring of the shape of the pond basin would remove much of the superficial layer of accumulated sediment, leaves, and woody debris from the bottom of the pond. That material could be then be recycled on-site as a highly fertile soil amendment to help create an Oak Savannah at the unused, flood-prone, northeast end of the Thurston Elementary School playground.
By: Neal Foster

September 14, 2007

The Millers Creek Action Team Summer 2007 Update is avaliable.

May 1, 2007

Are you concerned about northeast Ann Arbor?

What is happening to the environment around Millers Creek?

Learn what is new in the neighborhood at an Open House from 7-9pm on Tuesday May 22nd at Logan School, 2685 Traver Road organized by the Millers Creek Action Team (MCAT).

Did you know that Michigan Tech has located a branch here? How will the creek be affected by Pfizer leaving? Ask the City, the University and developers, about their plans.

MCAT and other experts will be on hand with exhibits and slide presentations for brainstorming and discussions about what has been accomplished and what the future holds.

Join us for an evening with your neighbors and talk about what we can do to beautify our own landscapes and promote the health of Millers Creek.

Take home native plants, which will be given as door prizes.

Enjoy light refreshments.

Contact Jason Frenzel at 734-769-5123 or e-mail her at with questions.

March 28, 2007: Millies awarded at popular Millers Creek Film Festival

(Ann Arbor) Eighteen entertaining short films about the human connections to all parts of the Huron River system were screened at the expanded Millers Creek Film Festival. A crowd of 400 people enjoyed the second annual festival of locally made films at the Michigan Theater, organized by the Huron River Watershed Council.

Each top winner received a beautiful glass Millie trophy and $500. Second place winners received a check for $50. In addition, the Audience Favorite received dinner for four at the Red Hawk Bar & Grill.

South Lyon native Dan Nienhuis was the big winner of the evening. His "A Message from the Huron River Rock Bass" took the Millie for best Public Service Announcement and the Audience Award as well. In this 30 second film we hear what our native fish need us to do to protect the River. Photo below is a scene from "A Message from the Huron River Rock Bass."

The Millie for the adult category went to Jake Serwer with Ben Friedman and Sam Roston, all students at the University of Michigan. Their 5-minute film, "Riverbank Rescue," documents the modern way to restore a riverbank, bringing attention to recent preservation and management of the beautiful Huron River.

Jacob Rammage, a senior at South Lyon High School, captured the school-age Millie for "The Huron River: A River for All Seasons." His 3.5-minute film took us on a relaxing trip down the river, appreciating the recreational opportunities it provides in every season.

The Festival doubled last year's success, with twice as many films seen by twice as many people. It provided proof that our community has remarkable creativity; the youthful filmakers provided entertainment and information in 18 very different ways. The post-screening gala hummed with happy conversations while everyone enjoyed the homemade cookies baked by HRWC volunteers and the lovely harp music by Beverly Black.

The following films won Second Place awards. "Huron River Reflections" by Blair Neighbors at Milford High School - This moving film features the river as a place of comfort during a time of profound loss, connecting us to the impact of the Iraq war on local people.

"Stop Water Pollution" by Matt Jylkka at Walled Lake Western is a creative 30-second film showing pollution from the fish's point of view.

"The Watershed" by University students Justin Powell with Sean Dwyer and Jason Wazeerud-Din is a dramatic trailer for a hypothetical film about the threat of development to people's sense of place.

"A Walk to Remember" by University students Max Sloan with Jon Hradsky and Mike Tai is a humorous presentation (in verse) about the unintended environmental consequences of our daily actions.

The Festival doubled last year's success, with twice as many films seen by twice as many people. It provided proof that our community has remarkable creativity; the youthful filmakers provided entertainment and information in 18 very different ways. The post-screening gala hummed with happy conversations while everyone enjoyed the homemade cookies baked by HRWC volunteers and the lovely harp music by Beverly Black.

2006: Plymouth Green Crossing

Please click here for information about the Plymouth Green Crossing construction project.