Newaygo County Conservation Collaborative

The Newaygo County Conservation Collaborative (NCCC) is a volunteer organization founded in 2018 that continues to flourish under the leadership of MRWA Executive Director, Marty Holtgren. The founding members in addition to the MRWA include:
• Newaygo County Parks and Recreation
• Michigan State University Extension
• Newaygo Conservation District
• Newaygo County Drain Commission
• Newaygo Invasive Plant Project
Marty Holtgren has led this group from the start and has established a very clear direction. “The whole idea is to immerse young people in natural adventure in all seasons of the year. We introduce them to swimming, snorkeling, ice fishing, ice skating and more. Thanks to the generous support of the Fremont Area Community Foundation, we are able offer these events free of charge to local children from Newago County as well as disadvantaged and at risk children through PCA. In all cases, the response is very rewarding. They understand that they need to take personal responsibility for protecting the local environment.”
To date the NCCC has established two annual foundation events, one in the summer and another during the winter season.
The second annual Freezin’ Season Winter Carnival in February was a terrific event for area children and their parents as families gathered at the Newaygo County Welcome Center for a full day of winter activities. Some fished through the ice while others sledded down a perfect hill. Many young artisans built Mason Bee Boxes and bat houses with help from Marty Holtgren and Luke Cotton, Executive Director of the Newaygo County Conservation District. Volunteer DJ, Doug Harmon, kept everyone entertained. Mary Hansen joined in by teaching the children how to make native plant seed bombs with scrap paper, a little water and some native flower and grass seeds.
Naturally, there was hearty winter food for all and a roaring campfire, just what you would expect from an event produced by the Newaygo County Conservation Collaborative.
As always, everything including the bat houses, Mason Bee Boxes and fishing gear that the kids took home was free of charge thanks to generous funding from the Fremont Area Community Foundation. With increasing participant engagement, the Collaborative is rapidly establishing a reputation for excellent family focused environmental activities.
Last July a group of kids spent the day at Diamond Lake County Park learning about fresh water and the life it supports.
Young people from the At Risk program at Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect joined MRWA office manager Pat Jarrett, MRWA Education Committee Chair Nancy Burmeister and AIS Coordinator Mary Hansen at the park for an immersive experience. The day was made possible by great partners which included Erick Elgin from Michigan State University Extension, Nick Smith and Connie Mooney from Newaygo County Parks and Recreation, along with Doug Harmon (and family) a certified scuba diver and board member of the Newaygo County Road Commission.
After Doug and Nick fitted the kids with snorkels and masks, they all waded in to explore the cool backwaters of the lake to learn about water safety, aquatic ecology and ecosystems. For most of the kids, it was the first time they had looked below the surface of the water and observed fish and aquatic plants in their natural environments.
The kids also learned to collect and identify the insect life found in the shoreline habitat and to understand how you can judge water quality by the types and quantity of insects found with Nancy Burmeister. Mary Hansen introduced the children to aquatic plants and taught them about invasive species that are a detriment to native plants in our lakes and streams. Pat Jarrett completed their education with a fishing lesson using rods and reels donated by the US Forest Service.
According to Pat, “These two events are now permanent entries in the MRWA annual calendar but we hope to expand our outreach efforts in the future. With ongoing participation from great partners and financial support from our good friends at the Fremont Area Community Foundation, we are excited to offer activities that introduce kids to everything that nature has to offer.