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Elementary students to replant Muskegon State Parks' missing trees

A group of Reeths-Puffer first and second-graders volunteered to get involved after their teacher saw the story on 13 ON YOUR SIDE.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — A happy update to a story 13 ON YOUR SIDE first brought you last month.

Viewers weren't happy with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ decision to remove hundreds of trees from Muskegon State Park.

The agency then said it couldn't be avoided.

But now, the area will be replanted thanks to one of those viewers, who also intends to use the experience to pass along an important lesson in conservation.  

The stretches of bare ground punctuated by tall tree stumps inside Muskegon State Park’s Channel Campground has received quite a bit of attention in recent weeks.

The agency said it had little choice but to remove around 200 of them after rising water had, several years earlier, given the trees a condition known as ‘wet feet.’

Their roots immersed for a prolonged period, the trees had, the DNR said, become a hazard.

What they left behind, however, has been referred to as an eyesore. The forest will be restored, however, by a group of Reeths-Puffer elementary students.

Central Elementary Science Teacher Rebecca Sandee saw 13 ON YOUR SIDE’s story online and, at the time of publication, was in the process of working to secure sufficient funding via grants and donations to purchase seedlings.

With the help of her first and second-graders, Sandee said the hope was to inject some greenery back into the area.  

The exercise may also prove a valuable hands-on lesson for the kids.

“I let them watch the clip,” Sandee related. “Their minds immediately went to, let's get to work, like, where's my shovel? Let's plant some trees. So, they were more than willing to step up and brainstorm what they could do to help solve the problem.”

The DNR said it would love to see that level of community engagement catch on and viewed the effort as a win for all involved.

“Fantastic,” Greg Sherburn, the Park’s supervisor related Thursday. “With the assistance of her and her class, it will be great for them and for us and we'll work together on it.”

RELATED: 'Devastation' left behind after DNR removes hundreds of trees from Muskegon State Park

The DNR explained the seedlings would have to be responsibly sourced, likely comprising the red oak removed last month in addition to other native species.

The kids may be ready to get their hands dirty, but an exercise in patience may prove another valuable lesson: ideal planting for trees is spring or fall, so the effort will likely get underway later this year.  

The class was still collecting donations as of this week. To contribute, visit the district’s website.

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