Ecosystem preserve to see improvements over summer

Photos courtesy Native Edge Landscapes.

Changes are coming to the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve this summer. According to Program Manager Jeanette Henderson, the area surrounding the Bunker Interpretive Center is set to be altered to include a native plant demonstration garden, a three-season greenhouse, gardener’s cottage, benches, tables and an improved paved pathway system.

Henderson said that the goal is for the preserve to function as a place of “respite” where people can enjoy the outdoors as an “outdoor laboratory” and where students can experiment, learn about native plants and care for the local ecosystem.    

The changes are set to start at the beginning of June and finish by the time students arrive back on campus, with planting continuing into the fall.

Besides serving as a green respite from the busy, west side of campus, Henderson said that improvements will help foster the educational vision for the preserve, offering classes and individual students the chance to get their hands dirty.

“We consider this a living laboratory and an outdoor classroom,” she said.

One hope is that the addition of the native plants around the center will inspire students to integrate such sustainable planting habits around their own homes, creating “mini urban habitats,” said Henderson.  

Changes also aim to improve the accessibility of the preserve, including making the majority of locations within the gardens available to visitors with limited mobility.

Planting is expected to continue into the fall and spring, and there will be opportunities for students to to help with the changes beginning this summer. Volunteers can also help at the preserve on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings through the summer. For more information, visit

Henderson says that the vision and the funding for the project is provided by Thelma Venema, a longtime supporter of the college and the preserve. Venema previously donated money for the Venema Aquatic Center as well as the recent purchase of additional land for the preserve.

The preserve was officially founded in 1985 and was part of early creation care efforts on campus. In addition to this project, further changes will include improvements to current native gardens along the path leading to the Prince Conference Center and restoration of the area around Prince Pond.

A native plant sale will be held at the interpretive center on Saturday, May 5. More information can be found at