Fulfillment #7 GOOD IDEA grant winner: Kate Thornhill
LEO CREEK PRESERVE is a nine acre parcel on the Leelanau Trail in the Village of Suttons Bay, accessible by walking south from the Fourth St trailhead. I am in the incubator stage of creating an outdoor education environment there. In addition to working the land, I am preparing a number of programs and curriculums for kids and adults. The GREAT IDEA grant will go towards furthering my environmental education and purchasing some supplies. The first programs will be offered in May on installing solar drip irrigation systems, beginning permaculture (including building keyhole and raised beds, spiral gardens, guilds and hugul kultur). In the fall I will begin basic stream ecology with kids and am working on a seed saving workshop.
THE BIG IDEA and HOW IS IT PERSONALLY FULFILLING:
I would like to offer and teach outdoor education programs. I am embarking on a very different life path than what I had for 25 years. I was an accountant. I was never in love with my work but I became a single parent when my daughter was 7 and my son a baby. It was work that paid me enough money to provide us with a good living. I have no regret; however I always said I didn’t want that to be all I did. I was waiting to get my kids educated and then try something else. I didn’t know just what it would be.
Then, November 25, 2013, my beautiful 25 year old daughter who graduated from U of M with a 4.0 and was beginning a successful career in NYC at an art auction house died from an undiagnosed tumor that caused bleeding into her brain. I closed my accounting practice, did a lot of retreating, and slowly began engaging by doing volunteer work.
In January 2016 I purchased a diverse 9 acre parcel of land in the Village of Suttons Bay right on the Leelanau Trail (directly across from Hansen’s Plaza) and also across the street from the SB Public School. Leo Creek runs through it. It was where my daughter played as a child. I put it in a nonprofit organization, Hilary Thornhill Chapman Foundation and filed for a dba Leo Creek Preserve. We call it Leo Creek Preserve. I spent April through November clearing the 1+ acre agricultural area (there are 90+ productive blueberry bushes that were planted at least 50 years ago) of invasive plants. I am making it into an outdoor educational center. It is perfect for permaculture as it has all the zones. A large permaculture garden will be planted beginning in the spring.
There is a lot of things in the works for Leo Creek Preserve – all of which I am funding or funding with donations. Leo Creek Preserve doesn’t qualify for the GOOD IDEA grant.
I, however, want to work with kids and adults and offer educational programs there – on permaculture, stream and creek ecology, birding, winter camping, composting, (including vermiculture) and simple solar systems. I hope to network with Inland Seas and Crosshatch. I’ve begun discussions with both organizations. I’m also working with Leelanau Solar who is putting in a solar drip irrigation system for me and we are working to do that as an educational program.
NMC has a Certified Naturalist Program and I want to take all the classes so I can be an effective, fun, and hopefully inspirational teacher. I’ve served on the boards of NMEAC, Inland Seas, FLOW and NREC – so I have a long history of work on environmental issues. I’ve read every article and book on permaculture I can find and am now working my way through some books on a variety of outdoor education topics. This gives me a purpose.
HOW WILL IT MAKE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY?
I am doing this without any anticipation of compensation. This is a labor of love and I hope many many kids and adults will enjoy the land and programs. I hope to always offer them for no charge – or at minimum a small materials charge.
I hope, in the next six months, to have programs on installing a solar drip irrigation system, individual programs on permaculture: Building hugul kultur beds, keyhole beds, guilds, and spiral beds, and creek ecology. I’d like to offer a seed saving class in the fall.
I’ve lived in Suttons Bay for 30 years and have many connections. There is a lot of talent in our retirement community. I hope to tap into some of that talent to offer enhanced/expanded outdoor education programs. I hope to complete the Certified Naturalist program and offer birding classes. Leo Creek is in the middle of the best birding area in Leelanau County. It is also the largest salmon and trout spawning creek in the county and I’d like, in the fall, to offer programs for kids on the life cycles of salmon and trout. They can see them swimming upstream to spawn, after which they die. A unique ecosystem needs to be present for this process to happen. Inland Seas is just down the street and I hope to team up with their educators.
HOW WILL I USE THE $500?
$351 will be used for spring courses at NMC
$149 will be used for water testing supplies
(All my available personal resources are going into developing the property).
WHEN WILL THING LAUNCH?
HOW CAN WE (THE AUDIENCE) GET INVOLVED:
Come out to Leo Creek and help put in the permaculture gardens. Share your experiences and expertise on outdoor ed topics. Let me know of good books and resources. Give me ideas for outdoor education programs you’d like to have offered. I’m looking for kid-friendly, inexpensive materials and supplies, including adult and kid sized garden tools