The new entrance sign at Hidden Marsh Sanctuary, located near Three Rivers, Michigan. Photo, Dave Brown.

Farmers have used cut black locust trees as fence posts for eons because they are slow to rot away when buried in soil.

The hard, dense wood quickly dulls chainsaw blades and kills cordless drill batteries – but the hardest part of all is finding straight ones without gnarly knots, says Dave Brown, SWMLC Stewardship Specialist. He and the Stewardship Crew (Megan Martin, Jess Vanden Berg, and Alex Wubben) recently harvested black locust trees at Chipman Preserve, cutting two trailer loads of 16-foot poles that we will use in the future for signposts, trailhead kiosk supports, and parking lot bollards. Finding practical uses for the trees is a win-win situation, because the southern species is invasive here in Michigan, where it can quickly grow into dense thickets that shade out other plants.

Just this past week, Dave installed a new entrance sign at Hidden Marsh Sanctuary (near Three Rivers) that has locust tree-trunk posts, with help from volunteer Damien Newburry, whose invaluable assistance in auguring the holes whittled a full-day job down to just a few hours. As always, Matt Sikkema at Bart’s Banners and Signs of Portage did a great job custom fitting the irregularly shaped wooden posts to the straight lines of the sign panel. The rustic, bark-on posts soften the look of the eye-catching sign, giving it a “steam punk, hipster farm look.” Maybe not what we were going for but we can live with that!

Like everything, more work goes into creating a preserve entrance sign than meets the eye.
Many thanks to everyone involved!
Stay tuned for continuing improvements at Hidden Marsh Sanctuary, one of SWMLC’s oldest public preserves.