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Native Prairie Restoration at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute l West Michigan Environmental Education



Geologically, the landscape at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute was fashioned by the melting, or retreat, of the Huron Lobe glacier. While retreating, this glacier left behind a variety of features including an esker, a stream that develops under the glacial ice, and kettle-hole wetlands, including the 13-acre Brewster Lake. Virtually the entire watershed of Brewster Lake, one of the most pristine lakes in southwest Michigan and notable for its lack of both non-native aquatic plants and fish species, lies within the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute nature preserve.


Being located on a recessional moraine provides the Institute property with a great diversity of ecosystems. The total area available for education and research is 742 acres on five parcels, most of which is in the central parcel of 553 acres. Only one parcel, the “Little Grand Canyon,” is not contiguous with the main parcel.


Parcels and Ecosystem Facts


  • Central Parcel 553 acres

Purchased from Dr. H. Lewis and Jean Batts, who bought the property in 1952 to protect it from development, in 1998. Dr. Batts was a visionary conservationist, a prominent, internationally-known environmentalist, and co-founder of the Kalamazoo Nature Center and the Environmental Defense Fund. Dr. Batts was also a faculty member at Kalamazoo College. Prior to their ownership, the majority of the land suitable for agriculture was farmed. After the Batts purchased the property, all but approximately 70 acres was managed as natural land. His commitment preserved and protected the nearly pristine condition of the property.

Wetland — 170 total acres

     Prairie Fen — 101 acres

     Forested Wetland: Conifers — 58 acres

     Forested Wetland: Deciduous — 11 acres

Forest — 232 total acres

     Old Growth Forest: Beech/Maple — 39 acres

     Old Growth Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 16 acres

       Old Growth Forest: Oak — 6 acres

       Young Forest: Beech/Maple — 4 acres

       Young Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 88 acres

       Young Forest: Oak/Hickory — 79 acres

Field/Prairie — 138 total acres

     Mesic Prairie (Constructed) — 75 acres

     Old field — 22 acres

       Savanna — 26 acres

Open Water — 13 acres

     Brewster Lake — 13 acres

     Cedar Creek — 1.2 miles

  • Hyla House Parcel — 13 acres
    Purchased from the Rolfe Family in 2000. Its primary use is as property buffer and housing.

Agricultural Field — 10 acres

Building Footprint — 2 acres

Open Water — 1 acre

  • Little Grand Canyon Parcel — 58 acres
    Purchased at auction from the estate of Lyle Gorham, a farmer and longtime resident of Baltimore Township, in 1998, this parcel is not contiguous with the main parcel.

Glacial gorge over 150 feet deep with:

Old Growth Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 12 acres

Young Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 15 acres

Young Forest: Oak/Hickory — 4 acres

Agricultural Field – 27 acres

  • Burpee Parcel — 43 acres
    Purchased from the Burpee family in 2003. Cedar Creek runs through the center of this parcel.

Old Growth Forest: Beech/Maple — 1 acres

Young Forest: Beech/Maple — 2 acres

Young Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 12 acres

Young Forest: Oak/Hickory — 10 acres

Forested Wetland: Deciduous — 12 acres

Sand Prairie — 4 acres

Prairie Fen — 2 acres

  • Jones Parcel — 75 acres
    Gifted by the Jones family in the summer of 2015. Features Aurohn Lake, a man-made spring fed lake, constructed prairies, and a mixture of young and old growth forests.

Old Growth Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 28 acres

Young Forest: Mixed Hardwoods — 22 acres

Old Field — 12 acres

Prairie (Constructed) — 5 acres

Prairie Fen — 5 acres

Open Water: Aurohn Lake — 3 acres


Plant Community Types



Plant Community Type

% of total acreage



Total: 46%




Old Growth Beech-Maple




Old Growth Mixed Hardwood



Old Growth Oak


  Young Forest Beech-Maple


  Young Forest Mixed Hardwoods


  Young Forest Oak-Hickory




Total: 25%




Prairie Fen




Forested Wetland Conifers



Mixed Deciduous Swamp



Total: 27%




Agricultural Field




Old Field



Prairie (Constructed)


  Sand Prairie





Open Water

Total: 2%




Brewster Lake




Aurohn Lake



Cedar Creek