A project has begun in York Township’s Sandra Richardson Park to create a facsimile of an Oak Openings, savanna as it may have existed several hundred years ago. Oak openings were and are a unique ecosystem of primarily oak trees and assorted flora, shrubs and grasses that existed only in topography and soils [till] deposited during the last glacial period which ended about 9,500 years ago. Old maps of the 1800’s show a large strip of land crossing Richardson Park as being a recognized historic oak opening or savanna. Very few undisturbed oak opening sites still exist in Michigan.

Richardson Park on Platt Rd. is located on the Defiance Glacial End Moraine. This marks the furthest advance of the last glacier, the Wisconsin Glacier, before its final melting and retreat. The deposited glacial till contributed to the formation of these unique oak savannas.   Periodic natural fires controlled the growth and characteristics of the ecosystem before European settlement of the area making it ideal for Native American settlements.   Subsequent human development and agriculture have consumed most all of these unique savannas in Michigan.

The original oak savanna in York Township was destroyed as the large “open grown” oak trees were cut down many years ago.   True restoration cannot proceed without the presence of the large mature trees.   A new generation of smaller oak trees are now in place and thriving. 

The hoped for result will be a black oak and burr oak savanna with a tree canopy cover of about 15 to 20 percent of the area within the project area. As available, period native plants, flowers and grasses will be planted under the tree canopy. Restoration will take a number of years as the small trees mature in size. Invasive plants, unwanted trees and brambles will be managed through prescribed burns. The initial cutting has been completed with most of the oak trees remaining. Additional Burr oaks, a staple of an oak openings, are being planted.

The Oak Openings area will be located along the trail that runs north from the old Judd Road Bridge leading to the Willis Road entrance. Approximate size will be 15 acres.

Pictured below is the area. 

OOS2 Oak Openings Savanna

Community volunteers are welcome to periodically help with restoration activities. Contact us through our web site at www.ytpr.org.


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