Moosewood center to clean up Black Rocks

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Akasha Khalsa

The Moosewood Nature Center cleanups of the Black Rocks on Presque Isle have been postponed to Oct. 13 and 27. 

The project is intended to keep the natural area looking pristine and to draw volunteers to the park.

“Our cleanup project is an effort that we are doing to educate people about keeping Black Rocks clean during heavy tourist and peak traffic times,” NMU psychology graduate student and board member for the Moosewood Nature Center Erik Johnson said in an email.

Johnson has been at the Moosewood Center only since the beginning of this year, but he has made a point to make waves as part of his entrace, he said.

The cleanup project, the first of its kind to be done on the Black Rocks, is mainly his idea. 

It will be completed in two parts. Volunteers will comb the land from the parking lot to the west shoreline, while below Superior’s surface, scuba divers will trawl the swimming area for underwater debris.

“We can’t adopt Black Rocks, per se, because there’s just no way to do that. But we’re going to clean up the area,” Johnson said.

The center is organizing this cleanup as a part of their contract to be good stewards to the park, provide educational services and keep the area clean, Johnson said.

Though not officially affilliated with the city or NMU, the center fosters working relationships with both in order to reach the community, Moosewood Board President Scot Stewart said.

“For us, the cleanup is to show both the city and the community our hopes for maintaining the pristine atmosphere here on the island. I’ve done some traveling, and to me this is the most spectacular city park in the country,” Stewart said. “Here in this park, between the scenery and just the variety of habitats here, it gives us a chance to show the community just how important this place is, and that we look at both what’s on land and in the water as features of this park that we want to take care of.”

In contrast to the heavily polluted Marquette Harbor, which underwent a similar cleanup this past August, Black Rocks are in much better shape, Johnson said.

There are many items of litter which end up on the shore and below the water line as a result of human activities in the area. Most of these items tend to be wrappers, cans and other belongings, Johnson said.

The center is actively seeking volunteers for this event and especially encourages students to become involved in stewardship and education-related activities. Student divers will be assisting during the upcoming cleanup, and Johnson hopes that any person who is scuba certified and who wants to gain experience will find the event valuable.

“At Moosewood, we’re hoping to encourage NMU students and student groups to be interested and help during the school year and if possible, into the upcoming summer,” Johnson said. “For environmental science majors or conservation, I hope it’s an avenue to help Moosewood with student input and ideas on how to make Black Rocks a better place.”

Due to the increasingly cold temperatures, the dates for the upcoming cleanups may have to be changed, or the project even altered.

“The big thing is we’re looking for ideas on what we can do as far as educating and cleaning up the trash,” Johnson said.

He hopes to increase NMU student involvement in the center in the coming winter months, not only for volunteer work, but also to have students coming in to use the resources provided there, such as microscopes and taxidermies.