Juliana Cerra, Mill Race Village Grounds Committee Chair
Nearly 20 years ago, Juliana Cerra started working at Mill Race Village as a volunteer with the Country Garden Club of Northville. Her work expanded to developing a Master Plan for Mill Race Village to refurbish the grounds as part of her MA degree in Environmental Design at MSU. Now she spends about 100 hours annually on site as well researching and sourcing plants and materials to continue her native plant restoration, riverbank restoration and historic garden design work.
Additionally, Cerra, a Northville Township resident, serves as Chair of the Mill Race Village grounds committee and liaison to the NHS board of directors. While her main activities are weeding, planting, pruning and mulching, she also attends to all signage, the parking lot fence line, rain garden, Weavers’ Cottage, and Mill Race Bank. Recently, she planted new white mums by the Gazebo to get ready for the “Married by The Mayor” special wedding events.
A key to the success of Cerra’s efforts is partnering with many volunteers. She consults and advises the Stone Gang on general horticultural questions, talks regularly with Northville Garden Club members and even works with students in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
“Sue Woodsum has been a great partner in managing the renovations at the Yerkes and Hunter House. I am particularly grateful to Charlie Smith of the Stone Gang for irrigation and cosmetic pruning,” said Cerra. “I also helped Girl Scout Aubrey Marquette complete her native plant project at the north end of the fence line by sourcing plants, including perennials from my own garden.”
Cerra also has joined forces with many community organizations for group efforts, including: Rouge Rescue Day projects along the Mill Race for five-plus years (Friends of the Rouge), Barr signage enhancement (Northville Dems), Rouge Trail with habitat boxes (Boy Scouts), Hirsch Rain Garden (Boy Scouts), North Fence native planting (Girl Scouts), and Yerkes House Vegetable Garden (Boy Scouts). She also applied for grants that funded gazebo and Barr sign plantings (Northville Community Foundation) and a 2014 tree planting (DTE Energy Foundation).Cerra commented that she is most proud of spearheading the 2014 tree planting accomplished in part by a grant from DTE.
“Gardens depend on the constant attention of a caretaker and will change quickly over time,” said Cerra. “Trees grow for future generations. Already the pair of native river birch I planted frame the Ford Field entrance to Mill Race Village and others across the site are growing strong.”
Talking to visitors and answering questions about the landscape and gardening in general are high points of Cerra’s day when she is on site. She even likes weeding!
“I actually really enjoy weeding – there’s such a sense of accomplishment when my beloved red truck “Ruby” is full of compost bags,” said Cerra. “Spring is the busiest time, with early season clean up followed by planting. Winter is for resting!”
Looking to the future, Cerra would appreciate more volunteers from the community. In particular, she would like to grow an organization similar to the Stone Gang for general landscape maintenance with educational meetings in the winter and hands on work through the season.
“Juliana’s knowledge, ambition and overwhelming dedication are monumental. We all share in the beauty and awesome results she has achieved,” commented Bayly.
Cerra is pleased with the development of the grounds in alignment with best management practices and the support of the board for the various projects. “I look forward to more years of working with the many volunteers who make MRV possible,” added Cerra.
--Maria Simonte, Director, Northville Historical Society