The Seed Bombing of Water Street will happen on May 1

On Thursday evening, the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Commission met, and considered our proposal to adopt an acre of Water Street right alongside Michigan Avenue, just west of South River Street. I don’t think it will be official until Monday, but the members present agreed unanimously with the project as I explained it. So, it looks like we, the people of Ypsilanti, now own an acre of the former brownfield at the heart of our city, at least until such time that a developer comes forward to purchase the site. Here, if you haven’t seen it yet, is a map showing the area in question… which, as you can see, is relatively far away from the remaining areas of contamination.

So, while there are still a few issues to be worked out, it looks as though the seed bombing of Water Street will happen on Wednesday, May 1… While we’ll likely have a school group or two come out during the day to throw a few seed bombs, my sense is that the bombs will begin raining down in earnest at about 5:00 PM. Things could, of course, change, but, as of right now, the plan is to have people standing on the sidewalk, and launching their seed bombs, either by hand, trebuchet or slingshot, into the field, aiming for one of eight areas where we’d like to concentrate our efforts. (I hope to have those areas marked with flags that people can aim for.) We realize, of course, that some seed bombs will fall outside these areas (marketed in green below), but we’re thinking that it makes the most sense to focus on these distinct plots, for reasons I’ll get to after this aerial view of the site.

The idea of focusing on smaller target areas comes from my friend Jason Tallant, who, for the past ten years, has been handling ecological restoration projects for the city of Ann Arbor. In Jason’s experience, what you want to do in instances like this is increase the number of “edges” between the newly planted native species and the invasives you’re looking to displace. Those dividing lines, says Jason, are where the intense competition between species will happen. And that’s what we want. We want to create eight strong native cores that plants can then radiate out from, battling with the spotted knapweed, and the like. (The goal eventually is to have the entire acre filled with native species.) Toward that end, we’ll be lining up volunteers prior to May 1, to turn over the ground in these eight areas, and get the soil ready for our seed bombs. (We’ll also be removing invasives at that time.) Then, after the seed bombing, some of us will go through and seed those areas by hand, making sure that we’ve got seeds planted right up to each of the 32 edges that we’ve created.

Here’s a satellite image of the space in question, which will show you where we’ll be working in relation to the Dairy Queen.

As I expressed the last time we discussed the possibility of seed bombing Water Street, a great many people have come forward with ideas as to which native plant species we should include. I’d reached out to the folks at Ann Arbor’s Native Plant Nursery, Mason’s Wildtype, Ann Arbor’s Wild Ones chapter, the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Native Plant Producers Association and the MSU Extension Service, and almost all of them got back to me with suggestions. And I’ve spent the past several days synthesizing the information, and trying to determine the most cost-effective and impactful way forward… As Bill Schneider from Wildtype astutely pointed out to me, the key is to “balance the aesthetic and the horticultural”. We want immediate pay-off in terms of attractive native plant growth, in order to show progress, and secure the support of folks in the City, but, at the same time, we also want to move things forward in a way that’s ecologically sound.

So, I’ve spent the past week knee-deep in emails with people debating the relative merits of Jerusalem artichokes and butterfly milkweed, and trying to determine which species of natives might actually stand a fighting chance against the hardy invasives that have already taken root. And here’s what, as of right now, seems to make the most sense.

4-6 species of forbs:
Yarrow, Black Eyed Susan, Common Evening Primrose, Common Milkweed, and/or Sand Tickseed

1-2 grasses:
Canada Wild Rye and Indian Grass

According to Jason and Bill, this mix would be good because suppliers are likely to have the quantities of seed that we need, they aren’t generally expensive, and, most importantly, they’re competitive. “These species,” according to Jason, also “produce reliable seed, are pollinated by wind, generalist insects and birds, and are successful in establishing themselves in intense conditions.”

It may not, perhaps, be the sexiest wildflower mix, but it should be a great first step toward turning this parcel around, and breathing some life into the former industrial site… And, there’s nothing stopping us from transplanting some butterfly milkweed, and a few shrubs, along the Michigan Avenue edge.

Now, unless there are any objections, I need to reach our to seed suppliers and see if they have seeds for the forbs indicated above that are already cold-stratfied. (If they aren’t already cold-stratified, they’ll won’t germinate and produce plants until they’ve been on the ground through a winter.)

There are still, of course, things that need to be worked out… not the least of which is how we’ll raise the funds for seeds and clay… but I think we’re well on our way. We’ve got the City behind us, over 160 people have joined our Facebook group, and my sense is that the pieces are starting to fall into place. The next step is to get seeds, compost and clay, and start making bombs.

To stay up-to-date on the project, please join the Seed Bomb Water Street group on Facebook… and be sure to put May 1 on your calendar. It should be fun.

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  1. Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Should we start the seed bomb making process with dry clay or wet clay? Does anyone have a preference? How about a source?

  2. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Mark, congratulations on making this happen!! Great job!

  3. Edward
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Does anyone remember what businesses stood as this particular spot? I can’t remember. Do old photos of Water Street exist?

  4. Eel
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Spotted knapweed is a vile mother fucker. Be sure to bring shovels. Their taproots run deep.

  5. blueeyedpupil
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m there. Watching this idea develop has been a continuing lesson in good community action. Thanks so much Mark.

  6. Alexandra Dietz
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Kickstarter for funds for seeds and clay? Growing hope have a stash of seeds maybe? And I know of a handful of people that can help mix the clay, too

  7. Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I guess it’s official. We got covered by

  8. Robbie
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I have been planing to do this for some time as well as other guerilla garden projects. We are excited to now be part of a larger group to help this site transform. We already have a lot of clay and have access to more for little or no $$ and wild flower seeds..

  9. Dennis
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    What happened to the shot Andy Ypsilanti took at Tom Perkins on your Facebook page?

    It looked like he was stalking Tom then deleted his comment. That’s called irony.

  10. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Yes Dennis, I made a comment in poor taste on Mark’s page. No, it was not intended as a shot at Tom Perkins, but rather a commentary on using Mark’s blog as as source, mostly credited, sometimes not. The post read “Did they interview for this article, or did they lift the information from your blog?” It was in poor taste so I deleted it. I’m not sure where the “stalking Tom” idea came from, because someone else tagged him in a comment, and I apologized to him in the thread. I sure don’t get how it’s ironic that I said something that offended someone, apologized, and then I deleted it; maybe if I defended it to death and twisted around the words of anybody that disagreed with me to make it look like they were being a jerk, it would have been ironic. In this case, I think it was just dumb.

    I’ll say it again: I was not accusing Tom of lifting things from Mark’s blog, but commenting on how such things have been done in the past. I hereby publicly, and humbly, apologize to Tom Perkins for any such inference, and further, I will say that of all of’s writers working on Ypsilanti, he and Katrice do the best work at getting the story straight.

  11. anonymous
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    According to a commenter at this is a “self-aggrandizing stunt” on the part of Mr. Maynard. One wonders why in the fuck anyone in their right mind would ever lift a finger to do a goddamned thing in this community.

  12. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    And let me clarify further: my fb comment was in bad taste specifically because Tom wrote this article, and to my knowledge, he has never put up a story that used material from Mark’s blog that didn’t usually include Mark himself. Neither has Katrice. But it has, as recently as a few weeks ago, been done by others at, though has gotten much better about it. You may remember Mark’s recent story about Dreamland working on a movie. Soon after Mark’s blog post, an article appeared one morning in that almost entirely taken Mark’s post, unattributed. By the afternoon, the article had been pulled down and attributed

    Also, it’s been over three years since I posted under Andy Ypsilanti. If you’re going to trash talk, at least get the name right.

  13. Elliott
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    This is why I stay inside with my curtains drawn and do nothing, Knox.

  14. Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    This is just a ploy by Mark Maynard to generate hits to his blog and make money off selling copies of “The African Queen” on

    He’s such an asshole.

  15. Eel
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Don’t be fooled. The SEED is MAYNARD SEED!

  16. double anonymous
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    “An army of unwitting accomplices help Mark Maynard to spill his seed on Water Street.”

    “An army of radioactive Maynard clones begin reign of terror.”

  17. 734
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Mark is worse for Ypsi than spotted knapp weed. This city would be a paradise on earth without him.

  18. karen
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    One wonders why in the fuck anyone in their right mind would ever lift a finger to do a goddamned thing in this community.

    people who do things for this community get treated like shit for their efforts? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  19. Posted April 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    @Edward: I believe there was a fish store at that corner. At one time it was owned by Al Robinson, who represented the 1st ward back when there were five in the city.
    @Andrew: Your recollection of the Dreamland post doesn’t coincide with that of the writer or editor of that post. I’ll email you to see if you can send details. If that happened, it’s something we’d want to deal with, too.

  20. anonymous
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Why the fit of hysterical laughter, Karen?

  21. Posted April 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Apparently, since I’ve got this project going on Water Street, I now have to participate in every Water Street-related activity there is, or else everyone will know that this is little more than a “self-aggrandizing stunt”. I’m not sure why that’s only the case with Water Street. No one seemed to mind when I launched the Shadow Art Fair at the Corner Brewery that I didn’t also sign up for their softball team. And no one seemed to care that, when I coordinated a fundraiser for Ozone House, I didn’t also volunteer to clean their basement. But I guess Water Street is different. Now that I set out on a path to help reintroduce native plants on 1 acre of the 38 acre parcel, I’m apparently committed to participate in every trail cleaning project and tree planting activity there is. It’s apparently not enough that I’ve just signed up to be responsible for this acre for the next year. I need to do more. Or people will find me out! (Picture me biting my nails in fear as you read that.)

    Here, if you have no idea what this is about, is the comment in question, which was left on the site.

    I hope this isn’t a self-aggrandizing stunt by Mr. Maynard and his supporters, and they will be out there helping other members of the community in planting trees this coming weekend at water street.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve written about the tree nursery on my site before, and encouraged people to attend the last planting. And, I was hoping to see if I could get away from my baby-watching duties long enough to help out for a little this weekend. But, if I do go, it won’t be because someone anonymously challenged me on the pages of I’m assuming whomever left this comment is involved with the tree planting, which narrows it down to just a few people, and I really wonder why it was that he or she wouldn’t have just written to me and asked me to attend, instead of trying to goad me into doing so publicly… People suck, don’t they?

    As for the tree nursery, I’m completely behind the idea, and my hope initially was to try to hold this seed bombing campaign at the same time. I thought that that maybe we could convince some seed bombers to spend some additional time and help with the trees as well. Given that we had to be approval by Parks and Rec, and have still to order seeds, though, the timing just wasn’t going to work. And that’s why we decided on May 1. At any rate, I like the tree nursery and encourage you all to help out on during the upcoming planting… even if you might be working alongside a little troll.

  22. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I got a lot of the same negative feedback when I proposed The Water Street Trail project a few years ago. Everything from “this is stupid” to “you aren’t involved in other local trail projects, so what gives you the right to do this?”. Now there’s a permanent trail coming, a bridge to connect it to Riverside, and a tree nursery on the property, too. So what was “a stupid publicity stunt” a few years ago has become something closer to “oh, we can do a project over there.” (That’s not to say I take credit for these projects, or really, for much of anything on Water Street other than pointing out that we should use Water Street instead of just complaining about it) Maybe seed bombing will likewise spread to other parts of Water Street or other vacant lots by other people inspired by your project. One can only hope. (As a side note, please make sure to mark your work area, so we know to stay out of it when we do a cleanup on PRIDE Day, May 18)

    One thing is true though, if you put yourself out in the public eye with projects around here, the negative reaction is going to come out. I don’t know if that’s just the nature of comment driven media in general, or special to our area, but it does seem to be what happens. Don’t get me wrong, there’s positive reactions too, but it seems the critics are a lot more vocal. Karen may laugh, but sometimes, it can get to you, even when you know that in reality, reaction is overwhelmingly positive.

  23. Alice K
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Mark Maynard SAYS he supports poor, working moms, but yet he’s never cleaned my house.

    Why is that?

  24. anonymous
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Mark says that he supports gay rights, but yet he has not been gay married.

  25. Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    A teacher of mine once told me something valuable:

    “If you try to do something, people will hate you for it.”

    I’ve always found it to be true. It’s a good reason to do something.

  26. Oliva
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Gosh, I think I love so many of you–and I don’t even know you . . .
    This act set in motion by Mark is pure good. (Pure Michigan native plants too.)
    Here’s to the best things in life, love and will teaming up to bring on the proliferation of charming and beautiful native flowering plants along Michigan Avenue–yarrow, black-eyed Susans . . . soon will we have pheasants? I hope so.

  27. Tommy
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Mark Maynard – media whore. No wonder that last exit interview with his ‘brother whore’ was so damn long – they are two peas in a pod.

    Might want to change the name of the event that doesn’t include the word bomb. Could get you under the radar as an anarchist group. First Water Street, next the Water Tower, on to the water treatment plant.

    Can’t wait for the media to make this a feel good ‘bombing’ story – they will.

  28. Rustbelt Revival
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I don’t understand why you got so upset over a comment that has a valid point, although i disagree w/ the ‘self-aggrandizing stunt’ part. It’s not that you have to be involved in every Water Street project, but a problem arises if you create an event that draws bodies away from something like the Tree Nursery that desperately needs the help of volunteers to even exist. For instance, last year it was literally me, Teresa, Bonnie & 2 other volunteers planting 350 trees w/ the help of a handful of *paid youth*.

    However, I do applaud you for doing the leg work to adopt this parcel & actualize a dream Transition Ypsi members have had for years with this seed bombing project. Plus, it’s great that you consulted w/ a lot of our local experts to do this in a very visible & constructive way.

    But yes, Water Street *is* different since it has a stigma attached to it that nowhere else in Ypsi does. & perhaps people get defensive when you call a place that is very much wild & alive w/ plants edible & otherwise a ‘barren wasteland’. (I’ve already spoken to you personally about this). I really wish you would’ve caught my Water Street photo show at the Ugky Mug last June so you would see how Water Street is full of beauty if you know how to see it & where to look…

    That aside, of course I’ll be there May 1 & I urge people to ALSO attend the City Tree Nursery plantings coming up on Friday & Saturday.

  29. Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    I doubt very seriously that this event that I’m coordinating will “draw bodies away from the Tree Nursery”. I can’t recall the number that Teresa gave me, but I believe she told me five people showed up at the last tree-planting event, which is a terrible shame, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with my project, which hadn’t even been announced at the time. And, I’m sympathetic. As I mentioned, I tried to work it out so that we could do this at the same time as the tree planting, in hopes that it could bring more people to the project. The timing just wasn’t right.

    This isn’t a zero sum game. If one project does well, another doesn’t have to suffer. It’s possible that all of our projects can support one another. The bottom line is that this event on May 1 will bring new people to Water Street, and that’s a good thing, in my opinion.

  30. Rustbelt Revival
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I think you misunderstand me,. Let me repeat that I applaud you for going through official channels & consulting knowledgeable people to go about things in a transparent, constructive way. But i was simply trying to illustrate how many people are suspicious w/ what goes on at that property, regardless of the positive intentions, because of its sordid past (& present). Is it right? no, but it does reflect a mentality that some hold locally.

  31. Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I was reacting to your suggestion that this would “draw bodies away from the Tree Nursery”. I don’t think that’s true.

  32. Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand what’s up with this tree thing. You scheduled this on the same day?

  33. Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Different days, Pete. They’re doing the tree planting on the 19th and 20th of this month, and we’re doing the seed bombing on May 1.

  34. Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get how the two could possibly have anything to do with one another. That’s three weeks apart!

  35. Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Oh wait, 10 days…


  36. Elviscostello
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to see little league baseball played again at Gilbert Park. There was no better thrill than putting on your cotton uniform and getting to play under the lights (that are still there). The good hitters could crush a ball into the river, that would keep 8-12 year olds talking for days.

  37. Art Schmeg
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I’d be more upset about the Family Dollar going in down the street if this hadn’t happened.

  38. Posted February 24, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

  39. D'Real
    Posted April 5, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Is it time to start our own coffee farm at WSC?

  40. Posted April 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    At the rate temperatures are rising, I think we should be able to grow coffee in Michigan by 2025.

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] and we’re almost there already!By Mark | April 17, 2013I have a few updates relative to our May 1 seed bombing of Water Street.We reached out to a few reputable, in-state suppliers of native seed, and heard back from Native […]

  2. By STATUS REPORT: The Seed Bombing of Water Street on April 23, 2013 at 8:43 am

    […] 22, 2013We now have almost everything we need to carry out the seed bombing of Water Street on May 1, as you can see from the above photo, which I just snapped in my living room. The seeds arrived […]

  3. […] If there’s a group like NAP in Ypsi, I haven’t come across it. We did, however, get quite a bit of input early on from people associated with Ann Arbor’s Native Plant Nursery, Mason’s Wildtype, Ann […]

  4. […] For what it’s worth, we always knew there were areas of contamination of Water Street. We just didn’t know, as it appears now, that the toxicity might have extended to the site we’d selected for the Water Street Commons native plant prairie. Here, to give you an idea of what we were thinking at the time, is a clip from something I posted almost exactly three years ago, announcing our plans for the acre along Michigan Avenue. […]

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