August 13, 2013

Bringing new life to an old gem: The Deindorfer Woods restoration

Deindorfer WoodsIt all started in 2009, with a handful of volunteers armed with shovels, rakes and a lot of energy. Members of the Northmoor Neighborhood Association were determined to take back their park. The park they had in mind was Deindorfer Woods. Once a 20-acre haven for nature lovers, it had become overgrown and uninhabitable. Over the years, the once pristine trails were barely visible. Trees and brush had nearly closed off the entrance. And the pride of the neighborhood was in shambles.


The park, discovered in 1925 as the site of a 23-barrel-per-day oil well, is on the west side of Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center, 1500 Weiss. When the city experienced budget problems a few years ago, the park quickly fell into disrepair. But hundreds of volunteer hours, with help from local businesses that donated wood chips and tree removal services, began to reveal the beauty that residents had once enjoyed.


“The community really rallied around this cause,” said Reneé Johnston, president and CEO of the Saginaw Community Foundation.


Judy Andersen, former president of the Northmoor Neighborhood Association, said that Deindorfer Woods Park has the only “woods” in the city of Saginaw. “It has always been the Saginaw community’s place to experience the wonders of nature close to home,” Andersen said.


The transformation takes root

The hard work of a small team of volunteers was quickly noticed by community members. The restoration of the woods was supported by a Consumers Energy Foundation matching grant of $125,000.


“This park is one of ten projects that our company is supporting in communities around the state as we celebrate our 125th Anniversary,” said David Mengebier, president of the Consumers Energy Foundation. “It symbolizes our commitment to the people and the communities in Michigan we serve.”


The matching funds were raised within six months. The Saginaw Community Foundation donated $25,000 toward the goal.


“We feel it’s vital to support the restoration of Deindorfer Woods Park, not only because it’s a great place for people of all ages in our community to enjoy the outdoors, but also due to its historical significance,” said Johnston.


Grants from The Dow Chemical Company, Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation, Citizens Bank, Morley Foundation, Frank N. Andersen Foundation, Allen E. & Marie Nickless Memorial Foundation, Wickson-Link Memorial Foundation and Alice E. Turner Memorial Trust provided the remainder of the funding.


The $250,000 in total donations were used to renovate the trails, replace dead trees, add a new playground and put lights, security cameras and a new parking lot into the park.



“Members are amazed and thrilled by what has been accomplished by this investment in one of Saginaw’s treasures,” Andersen said.


New park blossoms

What started with neighbors using lawn mowers to widen trails, replacing rotten wood planks in picnic tables and carrying out heaps of litter, has now culminated in the complete restoration of a beloved park.


Larry A. Coulouris, who lives in the neighborhood and was involved in the beautification project said, “If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to go back there.”