As the sun rose over the meadow that was formerly Ashbridge Lake on October 4, the first of our three days of tree planting, I stood and surveyed the planting area that was soon to be home to 300 trees and shrubs and felt a sense of excitement (and some stress) for the event that was about to take place. Months of effort and planning had gone into making sure the next three days were to go smoothly. Now, as I stand at the edge of the meadow and gaze at all of the beautifully planted and caged trees I have only one feeling: gratitude. I was recently taught my first Lenape word: Wanishi (“Wah-ni’-shee”), which is a profession of gratefulness. Used to start every meeting, it feels appropriate to start this post of appreciation for all of the effort that went into this project.
Thank you to each and every volunteer who came out over the course of the summer to help prepare the planting site –from weedwacking and digging holes, to planting, caging and watering the trees. A major thank you to Mother Nature, who was thoughtful enough to break the drought with a gentle rain the day before the planting was due to take place, which made life much easier for the group of hunters who had volunteered to assist yours truly in digging holes for the trees.
Each planting day was cool, clear, and perfect for all of the labor that took place. Over 60 incredible volunteers came out over the course of three planting days – families, individual volunteers, friends, coworkers – each day was filled with laugher as friends, old and new, bonded over planting new life into the meadow. Our fabulous Watershed team was reunited, as past interns and Drexel co-op students returned with friends; enthusiastic freshmen in the Drexel University Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) program came out with their fearless leader and professor Dr. Marie Kurz; a local scout family came to work hard; Tree Tenders from Goshen and elsewhere leant their expertise and guidance. Two teachers from Kennett Square school district came out – neither of which knew the other had signed up! Rain began to fall as the final cages were being placed around the trees, saving us from hauling buckets of water to our new plants.
We could not have done this vital work without the hard work of every single volunteer. Your effort is helping to improve the habitat both on the stream banks and in the channel. As the roots of each tree grow into the soil, they will stabilize the sediment and slow the rate of erosion. Over the coming years, the canopy will spread and begin to shade the stream and keep the water cool. The impact of each tree will improve the water quality in our watershed, and we are excited to monitor the changes that take place over the next several decades. Already, I am starting to see an improvement to the ecological value of this meadow (before it was filled with invasive canary reed grass and mile-a-minute vine and inhabited by a stunning number of non-native Chinese praying mantis). In the areas that we have cleared since the spring, we are seeing native sedges begin to appear and an increase of butterflies using the area. I have been observing the wildlife starting to use the space – birds now move in each morning, hopping from tree to tree and exploring the new habitat. As the birds learn, so do the deer, but the cages that were placed around the trees by volunteers should help to keep them safe from the curious white tails.
The next time you’re talking a walk through Ashbridge Preserve, please take a moment to pause in the planting site. I hope you feel the same way I do as you look at trees growing in the meadow. We’re already planning the next round of planting, so please watch for announcements if you want to join us! Also, take a look at the time lapse video we shot over the tree days.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and TreeVitalize. A special thank-you goes to REI. As if the joy of planting trees was not enough, they donated amazing door prizes to raffle off to a lucky volunteer each day!