By David Fleet
Brandon Twp. — Lois Robbins made a difference.
A champion of the community’s natural treasures, a tireless activist for environmental protection and a volunteer extraordinaire died on Nov. 17 at her Brandon Township home.
She was 94.
“She would spend a lot of time in nature as a child,” said Bill Robbins, her son. “She was always drawn to it and inspired her work later in life. Mom was inspired by author Thomas Berry, has a number of books out, they do really provide a framework for nature as spirituality.”
Robbins first became active at the Upland Hills ecological awareness center, which drew her to looking for a rural residence in northern Oakland County, said Bill. Over the decades she was an author, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, humanitarian and a good organizer.
Robbins worked with Oakland County in producing a natural features inventory map as well as maps of waterways in the township and says she was ‘pretty excited’ to learn that the township was the headwaters of three waterways Kearsley Creek, Paint Creek and the Clinton River.
That excitement inspired her to create what she was best known for in this area and will likely be her lasting environmental legacy CreekFest.
Robbins founded in 2003 the festival that celebrates the area’s waterways and promotes education and protection of the environmental treasures. She called the first CreekFest a modest event, without minnow races, but centering around the Old Mill, adjacent to Kearsley Creek.
“I just wanted to raise awareness and appreciation in the community for what we have here,” said Robbins, during an interview with The Citizen in 2015 when she was named Citizen of the Year.
Robbins called herself a “late bloomer.” The mother of four raised her family before returning to school and earning a master’s degree in religious studies, a subject she then taught as a professor at the University of Detroit from 1986-1990. Her environmental activism began in Sylvan Lake, where she started a recycling committee. When she retired from U-D and moved to Brandon, she gave herself a few years to get a sense of the community before beginning work here.
“She wanted to move to a more rural spot and picked Brandon,” he said. “Her art was always inspired by nature. She was a very creative person and even wrote poetry, song and painter.”
Her impressive resume for environmental endeavors in this area began with a four-year stint as the secretary of the Great Lakes Bioregional Land Conservancy in Lapeer County (1999-2003), followed by extensive work with the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy, in which she served on the board and worked on multiple projects, writing educational columns, establishing a Brandon Preservation Committee, and contacting property owners regarding possible conservation easements.
Part of Robbins’ efforts to protect the creek from such dangers included the establishment of Creekside Garden, which along with Heritage Garden (located next to the Old Town Hall) were native landscape demonstrations. The gardens featured native plants that act as a creek buffer and also offer havens for wildlife.
She published two books, “Waking Up in the Age of Creativity,” and “Lawn Wars,” about the American lawn and how it’s not a friend to the environment.
By David Fleet