By Tran Longmoore,
Visitors at the Leslee Niethammer Saline River Preserve should have an easier time navigating the 17.4-acre parcel, and they can also learn a little more about the plants, animals and insects which live there.
150 Saline Middle School seventh graders have turned the nature preserve, located along the Saline River near the DNR fisheries, into a 17-acre classroom. Last fall, the students of Laura Odom, Kara Davis and Leigh Anne Roehm toured the preserve to learn about its natural features. They were soaking up the information for a project. The students hoped to create signs showcasing the various ecological, environmental and natural features at the preserve, which was for years home to local resident Charlie Berg. EMU Professor and Saline Board of Education Trustee Michael McVey secured a grant to fund the signs.
Roehm, who teaches science, said the preserve is a beautiful place and a great resource for the community. “We were trying to find a way that our students could help the community enjoy this place,” Roehm said.
After their visit to the preserve in the fall, the students went back to school to begin their sign project – an interdisciplinary project comprising social studies, language arts and science. The students create the signs. The best 30 signs were sent to SCS Image Group.
They visited the preserve Friday to see the new signs installed.
“There’s a lot of excitement among the students. They worked really hard on these signs and this makes it a reality – to see them permanently in the ground. These seventh grade students have contributed to Saline forever, because these will be installed forever,” Roehm said.
David Rhoads is a member of the Friends of the Saline River, which helped make the preserve a reality. The preserve his named after his late wife, Leslee Niethammer, who was director of the Saline District Library for more than 30 years. Rhoads said she would have liked this project.
“She really liked work with all the kids. I’m sure she’s smiling,” Rhoads said, pointing to heaven.
The Friends of the Saline River continues to make improvements at the preserve. Thanks to a donation by the Detter Family Foundation, Irises were planted. The Friends also planted milkweed to attract more butterflies.
The Detter Family Foundation also provided funds to purchase work boats and equipment. The Friends plan to begin working to clear the river and make it navigable, by canoe or kayak, from US 12 to Milan.