Public help needed at local park cleanup

Spring has officially sprung here in Macomb County! Buds are sprouting, flowers are blooming and just about everything is turning a lovely emerald green color. All of this activity makes it a wonderful time of year to get outside and enjoy our region’s many parks and outdoor spaces. But before we can fully immerse ourselves in nature, there’s some work that needs to be done. Just like you and I clear out our yards after the long slog of fall and winter, our parks need clearing too.

clean-up-1.jpgWhat does that mean exactly? Well, sometimes wind blows garbage into the area, disturbing pristine settings and potentially harming the plants and animals that live in these delicate ecosystems. Other times paths and walkways simply need debris cleared so they can be accessible for everyone during the summer months. All told, there’s some serious work to be done and that’s why your help is essential for getting everything in tip top condition.

One specific park in need of assistance is the Wetzel State Recreation area, Macomb County’s only state park. On Saturday, May 4 at 9 a.m., the Friends of WC Wetzel State Park are hosting the annual Wetzel SRA Cleanup. All members of the public are invited to attend and help in the effort. Lunch will be provided and children that accompany an adult will be awarded a certificate of park stewardship.

Organizers ask that all volunteers bring work gloves and boots and dress appropriately for the weather – as the cleanup will take place rain or shine. For additional information, meeting location and directions, click here.

clean up 2

If you’re able, we highly encourage participation in events like the Wetzel Park cleanup. Our green spaces are valuable resources that make our county special. To ensure that this remains the case, we need everyone to pitch in and help out. A little effort will go a long way.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Loyalty Day and Law Day offer opportunity to recognize the heritage of America’s freedom

On May 1, Americans across the county will celebrate both Loyalty Day and Law Day, holidays that recognize the heritage of America’s freedom and the brave men and women that protect and serve our nation.

Locally, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Macomb County Council will honor the day as well. They’re asking residents of the county’s 27 communities to join in the celebration by taking part in patriotic acts like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or flying the American flag.

“It is our wish to have all the patriotic citizens in our county come together to recognize this day,” said Mike Sand, public information officer for Fraser-Reid VFW Post 6691. “’United We Stand’ is more important today than ever. Help us spread the word and encourage your community to get involved in recognizing the significance of this day. Hopefully together we can make a positive impression.”

The origins of Loyalty Day in particular date back to the early 20th century, when the first “Americanization Day” was held as a way to counterbalance the various communist uprisings around the world at that time. Today, the holidays mark a time for all Americans to recognize our freedoms and show respect to service members.

In addition to the ways recommended by the VFW, you can honor the day by visiting one of the many Macomb County memorials dedicated to the armed forces and local police and fire departments. To streamline your search for a site, the county created a public map featuring all of these locations in our communities. The easy-to-use digital tool organizes memorials into categories for police, fire and military. Every site is highlighted on the map with clickable icons that display a memorial name, address and image (photographed in-kind by Cheri Warnock of Cherish Your Photos).  Sites include:

  • The Epic Post Memorial (fire)
    41625 Ryan Rd, Sterling Heights, MI
    Epic post memorial
  • The Fallen Heroes Memorial (fire)
    29777 Gratiot Ave., Roseville, MI
    Roseville Memorial
  • Memorial Park (military)
    7530 Auburn Rd, Utica, MI
    memorial park
  • Veterans Memorial Park (military)
    27400 Campbell Rd, Warren, MI
    veternans park
  • Richard Vauris Memorial (police)
    37985 Groesbeck, Clinton Township, MI
    Richard memorial
  • Christopher Wouters/Ed Rea Memorial (police)
    29900 Civic Center Blvd., Warren, MI
    Edward Rea

Those are just a few of the more than 75 sites listed on the map. And with Loyalty Day and Law Day just one week away, we highly recommend checking it all out and building your plan of action. You can also access other resources and information here.

When you’re ready, let us know how you are celebrating in the comments. We’d love to highlight your efforts.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Sample Michigan-made beers at the Warren Big Brew Festival

Beer lovers rejoice! The Warren Big Brew Festival has returned with the chance to sample locally-made beers. The event, which will take place April 27 at Hemlich Park, features just about everything you’d expect from a beer fest: craft beers, homebrewers, food vendors and of course, beer sampling. But what makes the Warren Big Brew Festival unique is its Same Difference competition – a contest that asks participating brewers to use the same malt and the same hops to create different beers. 57083589_10151055691764982_8427381921071235072_nThe beers are then judged by the attendees and a prize – a giant wrestling belt trophy – is awarded to the winner.

All of that certainly sounds like a blast. But there’s another element about Same Difference that you should consider. The beers in the competition are made of products and materials entirely sourced in Michigan. And according to festival organizers, there aren’t really many other places where you can sample a beer like that. For instance, we’ll see beers made with Michigan hops, Michigan water and Michigan malt. In the world of beer, that’s pretty unusual, as most malt is produced by large industrial factories out west. However, here in Macomb County, we’ve got our own producer – Motorcity Malt House. Starting in 2014, the company began taking grain grown up north and creating small batch craft malt out of a facility in Shelby Township. Results have been positive, with product picked up by several local brewery clients and home brew stores. And as mentioned, the malt is also used in the Same Difference competition at the Warren Big Brew Festival.

So – are you interested in sampling a completely made-in-Michigan beer? If you answered yes, here are some details to help you in advance of the event:

  • The event is presented by the Warren Kiwanis and will feature Warren’s own Kuhnhenn Brewery and Dragonmead, as well as other breweries from throughout Macomb County, including Blake’s, Baffin, Brooks, Sherwood and Miller’s Big Red.
  • Admission to the Big Brew Festival is only $5, which includes a glass that you can use to sample brews while you’re at the event.
  • While you sip on beers, there will be live entertainment on stage, including sets by The Swift Brothers at noon and Merge at 3 p.m.
  • The Go Cheez and Mean Weanie food trucks will be on site too, serving up delicious eats.
  • You can even try your luck in a Cornhole Tournament and possibly walk away with a cash prize.

Make note – the Big Brew Festival will kick off at noon and run until 7 p.m. For more information on this fun event, click here.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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April is National Volunteer Month. Here’s how you can give back in Macomb County.

It seems that there’s a day or month to mark every occasion. National Ice Cream Day, National Siblings Day, National Barbeque Month; the list goes on and on. But this month, April, celebrates something very important – volunteering. The act of donating your time to give back to your community and those in need. It’s simple, but it can have an incredible impact. For instance, several months ago, I volunteered to deliver meals through the Macomb County Meals on Wheels program and I wrote about that experience here. Through the donation of several hours of my time, more than 15 local senior citizens received emergency meal and supply boxes that would help them during winter.

adult-african-afro-1083619That small act of service reminded me how lucky I am and made me feel good. It also showed me the importance of volunteering, because our communities benefit and on a more personal level, our health does as well. In fact, according to a recent study by United HealthCare and Volunteer Match, volunteering for as little as two to 2.5 hours each week can be beneficial for your health. Additionally, 75 percent of those who volunteered in the past year said that it made them feel “physically healthier.” And more than one-third (34 percent) of those who volunteered found participating helped them to better manage their chronic illnesses, compared to those who have not volunteered in the past 12 months.

Reading those stats is pretty convincing; we should all volunteer as often as possible! And with it being half way through April, National Volunteer Month, now is the perfect time to start exploring how you can get involved and give back to your community.

One of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in Macomb County’s rich network of volunteers is to get involved in a local service organization. The impact of our Kiwanis, Rotary and Optimist members (and others) in all of our communities runs deep and makes all of our neighborhoods better places to live.

Not sure what a service organization does? Check out the NEW MMYH Directory of Service Organizations to learn more about each organization’s mission, activities, location, meeting time and more here. And let us know how you choose to get involved in the comments. We’d love to celebrate how Macomb County gives back in our next blog.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Part 3: What should you buy at the Macomb County tree and plant sale?

Great news! The online pre-order period for the Macomb County tree and plant sale has been extended through Thursday, April 11! So if you didn’t have time to get your order in, now’s your chance! And as we’ve done the last few weeks, we put together another blog with a suggestion of what you should buy.

Today’s feature – the Forsythia bush. Forsythia is a small but wide and fully hardy perennial deciduous shrub. It looks most attractive in spring, when it sprouts beautiful yellow flowers. It adds the perfect accent to any outdoor space – whether you plant the bush in your backyard or within your front yard landscaping.

For more tips on Forsythia maintenance, we turned to

“Forsythias should be given enough room to spread without topping the branches, for part of their beauty lies in the graceful manner in which the branches grow. Its yellow flowers bloom early in the spring before the leaves appear. The leaves are medium to dark green in summer turning green to yellow-green with an occasional tinge of burgundy in the fall. The forsythia tolerates a wide range of soils except permanently wet or exceptionally dry soil. The forsythia will flower best in full sun to partial shade. After a period of time, the forsythia will need pruning and moderate maintenance.”

“Forsythias bloom on wood grown in the previous year. For this reason, pruning should be done in the spring immediately after flowering. The flower buds develop during the summer and fall, and fall pruning will remove them. However, if the buds are already formed, necessary pruning can be done 4-6 weeks before flowering time, and the pruned branches can be forced indoors. Pruning should follow the natural habit of the shrub removing old or dead wood. Cutting the older branches to the ground every year will cause new shoots to grow from the roots and renew the shrub. If the shrub is completely cut down to ground level, it will come back but will take 2-3 years to flower fully. For hedges, plant forsythia 4-6 feet apart.”

If you’re interested in purchasing a Forsythia bush, check out the easy plant sale order form here. And mark your calendars for the plant pick up days – Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27.

For more information on other Green Macomb initiatives, click here. And to learn about the Blue Water Conservation click here.


Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.


Posted in environment, flowers, gardening, Green Macomb, outdoor | Leave a comment

How you can help prevent invasive species in the Great Lakes

We’ve all read news articles about various invasive species that have entered the Great Lakes ecosystem – but do many of us know how to prevent their spread? According to representatives from the Lake St. Clair Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), there are strategies that we can all adopt to protect our environment. And on Thursday, April 4, this group will hold a free informational event to teach these tactics to the community. More specifically, the session will focus on the New Zealand Mudsnail – an invasive species that you might not be aware of.

“New Zealand Mudsnails are on Michigan’s Watch List and pose an immediate and significant threat to Michigan’s natural resources,” said McKenzi Bergmoser, coordinator for the Lake St. Clair CISMA. “They have been found in five of Michigan’s most important trout rivers and we need your help in preventing them from spreading.”

So what exactly is the New Zealand Mudsnail? According to the state of Michigan:

“The New Zealand Mudsnail is a gastropod of the genus Potamopyrgus within Hydrobiidae. This small aquatic snail is native to New Zealand and typically measures between 4-5mm in size. Its dextral, spiraling shell is helpful in identification. The gray to light or dark brown shell is coneshaped and slender with a pointed whorl. Adults have seven to eight right-handed whorls and can measure up to 12 mm long. The operculum is ovate in shape, resembling an ear; this feature separates this species from other freshwater snails.”

The snails can tolerate a wide variety of habitats, including reservoirs, estuaries, rivers, and lakes. They are most prolific in water bodies with a constant temperature and flow, but are highly adaptable. Their diet consists of diatoms, detritus and plant and animal matter attached to submerged debris.

So why does this all matter? Well, mudsnails do not have to reproduce sexually. This means that in a matter of one year, a single female could create a colony of 40 million snails. That’s incredible! Making matters worse, the mudsnails hold no nutritional value for native fishes, so populations in the U.S. do not fall subject to predation.

This is where the community comes in. Since New Zealand Mudsnails can reproduce wild amounts with no known predators, it is our job to stop their growth. Which is why the Lake St. Clair CISMA is hosting its free April 4 event at the Lake St. Clair Metropark Nature Center at 5 p.m. There is no registration required, the goal is to simply get local residents to attend so they can learn how to prevent the mudsnail population from rising. We hope to see you there.

For more information on the event, click here. And for more information on the New Zealand Mudsnail, please visit the following resources:


Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Posted in community, education, environment, events, Metroparks, outdoor | Leave a comment

Part 2: What should you buy at the Macomb County tree and plant sale?

In this edition of ‘What should you buy at the Macomb County tree and plant sale,’ we focus on the Eastern Redbud (cercis canadensis)!

As a refresher, Macomb County’s tree and plant sale is an annual event held by Green Macomb and the Blue Water Conservation District. The sale provides an opportunity for the public to purchase young trees, fruit trees, flowering shrubs, wildflower seed and other fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. Its pre-order period runs through April 4, so we highly recommend getting your orders in now. Which brings us back to the Redbud.

redbud1_540x 2The Redbud is a tree that is valued far more than its small size. Some people even suggest that it’s one of North America’s most beautiful native trees. What makes the it so special? Its gift of spring color and its hardy adaptability. Many landscapes are made all the more beautiful with the addition of a Redbud, which is distinguishable by divided, multiple trunks and a graceful, rounded crown.  It generally has a short, often twisted trunk and spreading branches as well. These notes are supported by several tips on planting and care from Garden Design:


  • The Eastern Redbud grows throughout most of the eastern U.S., extending as far west as Oklahoma and Texas and north into Canada. This tree is not picky when it comes to soil preference, but it does best when grown in a moist, well-drained location. Because of their modest size, Redbuds work well as understory trees and are particularly stunning when planted in groupings. The horizontal branching pattern adds architectural interest to the garden and makes an attractive canopy for spring bulbs.
    • Height: 20-30 feet
    • Spread: 25-35 feet
    • Soil: Tolerates acidic or alkaline soils as well as heavy clay
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
    • Annual growth rate: 13 to 24 inches


  • Redbud trees tolerate moderate dry spells, but when planted in full sun, they should be watered regularly. To keep the soil cooler and evenly moist in the summer, apply a layer of mulch out to the drip line of the limbs.
  • To maintain the tree’s structural beauty and health, you should prune it as needed to remove weak forks, crowded branches and dead limbs. It’s best to prune right after flowering or in late fall while the tree is dormant.
  • Most diseases affecting the Redbud are caused by fungal infections, including verticillium wilt, canker or dieback, and leaf spots. Older trees are especially vulnerable. Early identification followed by removal of the affected areas is the most effective treatment.

If you’re interested in purchasing an Eastern Redbud, check out the easy plant sale order form here. And mark your calendars for the plant pick up days – Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27.

For more information other Green Macomb initiatives, click here. And to learn about the Blue Water Conservation click here.

Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

Posted in environment, flowers, gardening, Green Macomb, outdoor | Leave a comment