Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens

The Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens’ mission is to conserve, restore and interpret native ecosystems to inspire people to value and protect the wonder of creation. Located on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens has provided work and research experience for thousands of Calvin University students, educated tens of thousands of people of all ages about local ecology, as well as become a source of respite for tens of thousands of visitors.

The ecosystem preserve was established in 1985, on 35 acres of undeveloped campus property, to restore and maintain examples of West Michigan ecosystems such as beech maple forests and vernal pools.   The preserve has since grown to 104 acres, with over a mile of walking trails and includes over 44 acres of forest and wetlands, as well as a large native demonstration garden with over 20 garden beds. The preserve is also home to Buiten Wildlife Sanctuary – 60 acres of wildlife refuge with restricted access used for scientific research.

Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens is dedicated to protecting the ecosystem of the property through restoration and field research. Data from long-term field studies (dating as back to 1974), along with careful land management has allowed for the growth of diverse plant and animal species in a healthy environment. As a result, the preserve is home to 227 species of animals and over 300 species of plants. Three of the animals inhabiting the preserve are species of special concern in Michigan: Blanding’s turtle (Emidoidea blandingi), Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina), and Cooper’s hawk (Accipeter cooperii). The diversity of plants found at Calvin Ecosystem Preserve correlate to a Floristic Quality Index  (FQI) score of 51.7, making this a site of state-wide significance and irreplaceable with current restoration techniques .(Registering an FQI of 50+ is extremely rare and demonstrates a significant importance to Michigan’s native biodiversity and natural landscapes).

Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens hopes to develop a greater understanding and passion for creation in all its visitors. To that end, a variety of public educational programs and volunteer opportunities are offered throughout the year for all ages including: family programs, summer camps, stewardship and greenhouse volunteer work days, environmental career panels, environmental education certification, and seasonal workshops. In addition, a native plant sale is held every May where the community can learn about the benefits of gardening with native plants and purchase plants grown in their greenhouses.   Additionally at the preserve, Calvin students gain practical experience and mentoring in environmental education, land management, and scientific research.

Despite all of this activity within its boundaries, the preserve remains a quiet, peaceful place for reflection and a habitat mostly untainted by human interaction. The preserve successfully brings together developed and undeveloped land and demonstrates Calvin’s belief that it is important to care for God’s creation. We invite you to visit and discover the wonder of nature! Trails are open every day from dawn to dusk for you to wander, take in the beauty of each season, and discover the flora and fauna of West Michigan. Admission is free. Additionally, stop by and visit the Bunker Interpretive Center (LEED-certified education center) which features many interactive educational displays, and resources.

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