Johnson Controls employees help protect Rum Creek

Johnson Controls employees and their families helped to plant 180 feet of native plants along Rum Creek on Saturday, August 25. This effort was part of Trout Unlimited’s Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative program, which began in the watershed in 2010. The project site, owned by City of Rockford resident Jack McClennen, was transformed from turf grass to trees, shrubs, flowers, and sedges that are adapted to local climate and conditions. These native plants were purchased using $1,000 from Johnson Controls’ Blue Sky Involve grant. Blue Sky Involve is Johnson Controls’ global, employee-driven volunteer program that encourages employees to form volunteer groups to work with local organizations to support environmental stewardship and leadership development projects.

Rum Creek is an important waterway to protect because it is considered a “cold-transitional small river system.” These systems are defined as having fairly cold July mean water temperatures between 63.5 and 67.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Michigan’s cold-transitional small rivers represent an extremely rare coldwater resource within the Midwestern U.S. Fish populations in these transitional rivers are sensitive to small changes in July water temperature. If we make land use changes that increase the water temperature due to increased stormwater runoff, or decrease groundwater recharge through covering the natural landscape with impervious surfaces (mainly artificial structures, such as pavements, that are covered by impenetrable materials) we could see a dramatic change in the ability of these waterways to support trout.

It is important to realize that while grass or lawn is not impervious, it absorbs less precipitation than a forest, or natural grass meadow. A typical lawn absorbs only 10 percent of the amount of stormwater that a natural landscape can absorb. As rain drops fall and strike the ground directly, they compact the soil underneath the lawn. The compacted soil quickly becomes saturated with water, which then has less of a chance to infiltrate into the soil. Precipitation then quickly travels as overland runoff into the nearest drainage sewer or stream, carrying with it many pollutants.

Landscaping with native plants is a great way to reduce the amount of runoff and pollutants that leave your property. Native plants have deep roots (some can grow down 25 feet) and form deep channels in the soil that absorb rainwater. These extensive root systems also hold soil together and help prevent erosion.

If you would like information on native plants visit the Kent Conservation District website at or if you would like more information on the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Program contact Nichol De Mol at or (231) 557-6362.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.

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