Volunteer Activities

Making a Difference in our Community!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, its the only thing that ever has.

-Margaret Mead

Natural features - forests, prairies, lakes, rivers and wetlands, cover over 82% of Brooks Township. Through various volunteer activities, citizens act as stewards of these natural areas - enhancing them for current users and protecting them for future generations. Anyone with an interest can get involved - and you don't have to live in Brooks Township to help! Scroll down to learn more about our ongoing activities, and be sure to check the News and Events page to find out what activities are scheduled for the near future.

Protecting Our Water

Stewards of the Land

Protecting Our Water

Brooks Township is blessed with abundant water resources. Muskegon River, segments of Penoyer, Bigelow and Coolbough Creeks, and portions of nine inland lakes are all found in Brooks Township.

As stewards of these water resources, residents are monitoring water quality in lakes and streams, conducting stream cleanups, and educating others about the importance of protecting and preserving water quality.

Below are some of the ongoing efforts.

Lake Associations Conduct Water Monitoring

If you live along one of Brooks Township's four largest lakes - Hess, Brooks, Emerald or Sylvan - you have the opportunity to get involved with the activities of your lake association.

In addition to serving as a social organization for lake residents, the lake associations deal with many issues of concern to shoreline residents, including water quality.

One of the voluntary water quality monitoring programs that the lake associations are participating in is the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP).

Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program

Brooks Lake Association members take dissolved oxygen readings from Brooks Lake with DEQ scientist Ralph Bednarz.

The Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program is a joint effort between the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Lakes and Streams Associations Individuals and lake associations that participate in this program conduct regular Secchi disk monitoring to test for water clarity and may also participate in monitoring for dissolved oxygen, total phosphorus and chlorophyll (with assistance from the DEQ). Training is provided each year for the participants, and the results can help lake associations and local officials in their management decisions concerning the lakes. For more information on the CLMP, visit the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association online or get in touch with the association for your lake. You can visit the websites of the Brooks Lake Association or the Hess Lake Improvement Association for more information.


Adopt-A-Stream workshops are regularly held for those that want to learn more about this program.

Contact Newaygo County MSU Extension at 231-924-0500 for more information.

The Adopt-A-Stream kits are available for Newaygo County residents to check out.

Adopt-A-Stream is a nation-wide effort to encourage volunteer testing and regular cleanups of streams and rivers.   Locally, the Adopt-A-Stream program is coordinated by Newaygo County's Michigan State University Extension office. Through this program test kits and equipment are available to test water samples for the following parameters:   nitrates, phosphorus, chlorine, pH, bacteria, clarity, temperature and dissolved oxygen. A macroinvertebrate test kit - a kit to examine the aquatic insects that live in a stream segment - is also available. This is lots of fun, very educational for community groups, classrooms, and youth groups, and a way to collect useful information about the health of a stream or river.   Contact the extension office at 231-924-0500 or visit their website for more information.

Muskegon River Watershed Assembly

"Preserving, protecting and enhancing the natural, historic and cultural resources of the Muskegon River Watershed through educational and scientific initiatives, while supporting positive economic development, agricultural and quality of life initiatives of organizations working in the river watershed."

The Muskegon River Watershed Assembly (MRWA) is active in many efforts to protect and restore the Muskegon River and its surrounding watershed, and they're always looking for new members and volunteers to get involved in their efforts.

Brooks Township is home to the steepest, free-flowing section of the river that remains in the watershed and to two important tributaries of the Muskegon River - Bigelow Creek and Penoyer Creek. Brooks Township supports the efforts of the MRWA, and encourages individuals to get involved.

Contact the MRWA at their office at Ferris State University in Big Rapids at 231-591-2324 or email them at mrwa@ferris.edu to find out what's going on and how you can become active in their efforts. You can also contact the Newaygo Conservation District at 924-2060 to learn about efforts of the MRWA in Newaygo County

Volunteers enjoy a picnic after a morning of cleaning up trash along the Muskegon River.

Stewards of the Land

Prairie Restoration

Water is not our only focus in Brooks Township. Rare dry-sand prairies and barrens remnants are found in the Newaygo area, and Brooks Township and area residents are working with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service to restore and protect these unique and fragile habitats.

Students from Fremont High School assist with weed pulling on one of the Newaygo prairies.

Local students and residents have assisted The Nature Conservancy in pulling invasive weeds on prairies and barrens in the Newaygo area. Seed collection days have also been held so that wildflowers can be transferred from one local site to another. The Nature Conservancy is also training people to conduct bi-annual monitoring of local prairies to assess the status of restoration efforts. Most restoration and enhancement activities occur of the Coolbough Natural Areas and properties in that immediate area. The Coolbough Natural Areas are located 3.5 miles north-east of Newaygo.

To get involved with prairie restoration activities, contact The Nature Conservancy at their West Michigan office at 616-766-0230. Or, check out the News and Events page of the township website to find out if any activities are scheduled for the immediate future.

Brooks Township Trash Day

Because illegal trash dumping on public lands had become a growing problem, Brooks Township organized its first Township Trash Day in June 2000. Since then Trash Day has become an annual event, held at the township hall each June. By offering events like Trash Day, we can put this trash where it belongs and keep it out of our forests and prairies.

Volunteers help Trash Day go smoothly and efficiently, and everyone usually has a good time. Plus, some people find new "treasures" in their neighbor's "trash". Volunteers are needed to help people unload their trash, direct people to appropriate dumpsters (since we usually have a few dumpsters reserved for recyclable metal), and other odds and ends To volunteer for the next Trash Day, Contact Us

Trash Day volunteers help the day go smoothly and efficiently.


Brooks Township residents and friends have adopted the section of M-82 between M-37 and Summer Avenue.Three clean up days are held each year, usually in early May, mid-July, and late September. Volunteers can participate in one or all of the clean up days. They're usually held on a Saturday morning, and you can find the specific dates in the News section on the main page of the website. Call the township offices at 652-6763 to volunteer for an upcoming Adopt-A-Highway cleanup.


Nearly 20 percent of the land in Brooks Township is part of the Manistee National Forest. While the national forest offers residents and visitors many recreational opportunities, some people inevitably abuse the public land. As stewards of the forests, local residents have organized clean up days as needed on the national forest, with support of the U.S. Forest Service. These cleanups happen on an as needed basis, and we hope that we will no longer need to hold clean up days as people find more responsible ways to dispose of their trash.

To find out if a forest cleanup is scheduled soon, or to report an illegal dump site on public lands, Contact Us, or contact the volunteer coordinator with the Forest Management Division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at 989-275-5151 ext. 2049. If you witness someone illegally dumping trash on public lands, contact the Newaygo County Sheriff Department at 689-6623 or the US Forest Service Baldwin ranger station at 231-745-4631. Try to get a vehicle description and/or a license plate number when making a report. You can get more Adopt-A-Forest information online at http://www.cleanforests.org

Volunteers have literally pulled tons of trash from national forest lands.

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