What if it rains the day of our registration? This is an outdoor activity, and you should dress for the weather, including rain. Should the weather turn severe, please seek safety, and we will follow-up with you and the hosts regarding a possible re-scheduling.

Are the landscapes safe for the elderly and those with balance issues? Our hosts have worked very hard to minimize the risk of slip and fall due to uneven or slippery surfaces or trip hazards. Known issues that could not be addressed may be labeled. Landscapes that include especially challenging slopes will be noted in their listing. Do remain vigilant during your visit and recognize there is still a minor, though real, risk.

Do you have landscapes that are ADA accessible? Our search engine includes a tag for “wheelchair accessible.” Landscapes that are only partially accessible will be noted in their listing. If neither is indicated, please assume the landscape is not suitable for a wheelchair.

I would like to add my own landscape to Open Yards. How do I get started? Simply complete our Landowner Interest Survey. We will be in touch to schedule a site visit to discuss your landscape, review the program and answer your questions.

Can I bring my children, and if so, is there a fee? Generally, children are welcome and those 17 and under are free, but registration is required. During your visit, please be respectful of the host and other visitors and be sure the children are under your supervision at all times. Should a listing’s booking not include a place to account for children, the owner does not believe their yard appropriate for young people.

Will bathrooms be available on-site? While some hosts might allow access, they are not encouraged to do so, and you should assume the bathroom is not accessible. Please plan accordingly.

Native bee on Silky Aster by Mitch Leachman

Will there be stinging insects present in these landscapes? Should we be concerned? In short, yes and no. There are hundreds of species of native bees in our region and plenty more species of wasps. They are beautiful and very interesting, and these habitat landscapes provide them essential food for their survival. Yet, their presence should not be cause for alarm. Generally, such insects only sting when they are swatted or feel threatened. Native plant gardeners routinely work in their yards right alongside bees and wasps without incident. In fact, most all hospital visits for insect stings are due to people getting too close to non-native honeybee hives or yellow-jacket wasp nests. Any landscape with honeybee hives will be noted in the listing. The Bee Basics Booklet by the US Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership is highly informative.

What about dogs? Will leashed dogs be allowed? Out of respect for the host and other visitors, please leave your dog or other pet at home. Similarly, the hosts have been asked to keep any pets indoors or within enclosures separated from visitors.

We saw non-native plants during our visit. We thought this was a native plant program. The West Michigan Open Yards mission is to inspire people to build habitat for wildlife in their landscapes. We believe one key to doing so is to show how native plants can be used alongside traditional non-native garden plants. There is no “requirement” to discard all existing non-native ornamental plants to get started in building habitat with native plants. Some call this “conservation by addition.”

Why is there a fee and where does the money go? Registration revenue and sponsorships cover program costs such as website development and maintenance, program coordination, insurance and host support (e.g. yard signs). After expenses are paid, the remaining revenue is used by the Kent Conservation District to help fund their programs and services for landowners in the region.

Do you have special Covid safety precautions? Airborne viruses, including Covid, are ongoing threats, especially for those with compromised immune systems. Yet, with all Open Yards activities taking place out-of-doors, we believe the risk of infection is low. Still, we urge you to take precautions as you feel necessary which could include maintaining your distance from others and/or wearing a mask. Should you develop symptoms or otherwise be concerned about the risk you may pose to others, please contact us directly so we can discuss your options including a possible reschedule of your visit.