Michigan Trail Tuesday: Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens
Michigan Trail Tuesday is our attempt to showcase a different trail or trail segment each week. The Mitten State is home to thousands of miles of trails, including the new Iron Belle Trail that runs from Detroit in the southeast to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula and more miles of the North Country Trail than any other state.
We’ve spent years exploring trails all over Michigan, yet we continue to discover more trails close to home that have slipped under our radar. Earlier this year we had a chance to explore the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens, where a network of trails allows for peaceful walking, birdwatching, study, preservation, and more. This preserve is located close to the busy East Beltline/M-37, yet once you are in the woods on the trails the sounds of this busy roadway fade away and let you focus on nature.
A sign near the parking area provides a map of the preserve’s trails, and also some background on why it is a preserve and not a park. “It’s a special place, established to sustain examples of West Michigan vegetation and wildlife for visitors and researchers to study and enjoy. Composed of 104 acres, 44 acres of the preserve consist of the walking trails and gardens for you to explore, while the remaining 60 acres serve as a private wildlife sanctuary.”
Following the sidewalk from the parking lot leads to the Bunker Interpretive Center, which has interactive displays and frequent special events. Restrooms are also located here, and there are several benches and picnic tables. We enjoyed seeing all of the early spring flowers blooming in the gardens here, as well as the scenic views looking out into a pond where ducks and muskrats were active.
The Calvin Ecosystem Preserve has eight different trails, covering a couple miles. The north, south, east, and west trails all run through the woods here, while the whiskey pond trail, bioswale trail, lowland trail, and pine grove trail provide spur routes that explore other features of the preserve. Observation decks in a few spots offer views of the preserve’s ponds, and signs posted along the trail are intended to provoke thought and discovery.
We saw only a handful of other people during our visit. Many birds could be heard and we saw lots of small mammals. Please note the following rules before visiting: stay on path, no running, no biking, no dogs, no collecting, no fishing, no skiing, and do not climb rocks. This is a beautiful preserve tucked away in a busy part of Grand Rapids and we want it to stay beautiful for many years to come.
The Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens is located on the east side of campus. There is a small parking lot here and a larger visitor parking area nearby. See the map below for details.