Natural Area Preservation
Of Ann Arbor
of Parks & Recreation
Page Designed by: Amie Ottinger
What is the Natural Area Preservation Division?
For the past four years, Ann Arbor's natural
areas have been undergoing a change. Thanks to the Natural Area Preservation
(NAP) Division of the Parks and Recreation Department, these natural areas
are being restored to their native beauty and biological richness.
Our mission is to protect, restore, and champion the natural areas of Ann
Arbor, especially those in the City
of Ann Arbor's park and recreation system. The program is funded
by the Department
of Parks and Recreation's voter-approved 1993-1998 Park Maintenance
and Repair Millage. Continued funding for NAP was recently approved
by voters when the 1998-2003 Parks Maintenance and Repair Millage was passed.
Why do natural areas need protection and restoration?
The city has set aside almost 1,000 acres of
woodlands, wetlands, and prairies in order to preserve natural features
and open spaces within Ann Arbor. This set-aside is the first step
in protecting these areas, however out work does not end there. NAP
works to ensure that these species-rich communities stay biologically diverse
through a variety of stewardship activities.
What actions does NAP take to restore and protect
our natural areas?
Threats to these natural areas arise from the
disruption of natural ecological processes. For example, historically,
fire was a common feature to our southeast Michigan landscape. Our
native woodland, wetland, and prairie species are fire-adapted and these
ecosystems are vitally linked to fire. As areas became more densely
settled by people, fires became less frequent, thus enabling non-native
and fire-intolerant species to "move in."
These aggressive, weedy, non-native species present
intense competition to native species, and the areas of once pristine woodland,
wetland, or prairie can become thickets of shrubs or weeds with very little
diversity. The loss of native biological richness locally is part
of a larger problem of species loss worldwide. However, we can take
steps locally to conserve native species.
With the help of volunteers, the NAP staff works
to maintain the regional diversity of native plants, insects, birds, reptiles,
amphibians, and mammals in our green spaces. First, inventories are
conducted to determine what species inhabit our natural areas. Based
upon this information, stewardship plans are developed to determine what
stewardship activities are best suited to a particular natural community;
then the plans are put into action. Staff and volunteers work to
reestablish natural processes using a variety of restoration techniques.
Controlled ecological burns are used to mimic
the effects of natural fire, removing fire-intolerant species and encouraging
growth of native fire-dapted species. Manual digging, cutting and
removal of unwanted plants from the natural areas increases the available
light and decreases the competition for native plants.
How can I get involved?
Numerous volunteer opportunities exist with the
NAP program. From March through November, NAP regularly conducts
volunteer stewardship workdays within park natural areas. Volunteers
remove invasive plants, collect seeds to use in restoration work, or work
as a trained member of the burn brew. NAP also relies on volunteers
to conduct yearly inventories of plants, breeding birds, frogs, toads,
and butterlies within the parks. NAP provides training in identification
and inventory techniques. Other volunteer projects, both long and
short-term, are available. Volunteers may drop into most of our events,
however some require pre-training or registration. Our quarterly
newsletter, "Natural Area Preservation News," features information about
restoration, preservation, upcoming events, and the activities of NAP.
To learn more about NAP or volunteer opportunities, please call our stewardship
hotline at 313-996-3266.
Links to NAP Activities and Staff
Other Links Possibly Relevant to
NAPpers (but possibly not)
Photo by D. Kashian