“[Plaster Creek] must be the most Reformed watershed in the world,” said Calvin College biology professor David Warners, after tallying the numerous Reformed institutions located along the 26-mile waterway in Grand Rapids, Mich. “But the watershed was unfit for human contact. . . . How could you not do something?”
Plaster Creek Stewards formed in 2006, bringing together Calvin College, the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s U.S. denominational building, the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, and a growing number of churches.
Andrea Lubberts, Victoria Proctor, and Andy Ryskamp examine macro-invertebrates in Plaster Creek.
Now that group has received a $58,500 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will allow them to increase their educational outreach, primarily to schools and churches located within the watershed.
The EPA identified Plaster Creek Stewards as one of five awardees from among hundreds of applicants for the unique collaborative work between government agencies, environmental advocacy organizations, an academic institution, and local churches.
The creek runs 26 miles (42 kilometers), starting in Dutton, Mich., and ending in downtown Grand Rapids.
Plaster Creek Stewards work to counteract the deleterious effects of runoff upstream from pavement, lawns, and farms. Chemical fertilizers and animal waste have changed the quality of the stream’s habitat.
Project Coordinator Nate Haan noted, “Increasingly . . . we’re seeing that environmental issues overlap with justice issues and that both religious and nonreligious groups have a part to play in addressing them.”
Funding to this point has come from small grants and Native Landscapes, which does landscaping and consulting for institutions and private clients. The prestige of the EPA grant may well open up doors to other funding sources.
Warners concluded, “If any faith should affect the way we [care for creation], it is the Reformed faith. This is more than an academic pursuit; it gets to our core.”