By Luke Short, Summer Intern
In the past few months, hundreds of feet have traversed the renovated boardwalk’s winding path. Even though the last board has been laid, the boardwalk project is not quite over. In fact, a very important step in the process has just begun – the ecological restoration of natural areas around the boardwalk.
The use of heavy equipment compacted soil in some areas and selected trees and plants were removed to make way for a wider walkway. Drainage conditions have changed in the wetland area near the Wasiesky Science Teaching Pavilion, allowing ideal growing conditions for harmful invasive species. Phragmites and multiflora rose have taken advantage of the disturbed soil and open conditions created by the construction.
Phragmites is a perennial, aggressive wetland grass that outcompetes native plants. Phragmites provide little or no food or shelter for most wetland-dependent wildlife. They eliminate wetland habitat that offers natural refuge and feeding grounds for invertebrates, fish, and waterbirds. Phragmites create a dense jungle of vegetation that native birds, fur-bearing mammals and even deer cannot penetrate. Similarly, multiflora rose out-competes native shrubs like spicebush and offers little benefit to wildlife.
With the scope of the boardwalk construction, some impact on natural areas was inevitable and anticipated. We made deliberate choices to minimize that impact whenever possible. And now, as responsible stewards of the land in our trust, we have begun the work of ecological restoration. The goal of restoration is to re-establish a healthy, functioning ecosystem. For this restoration effort, we are focusing on reintroducing native species, improving soil conditions, addressing drainage issues, and controlling and removing invasive species in the most heavily impacted areas around the gazebo and near the main parking lot.
The restoration process began in May and the work was carried out by Meadville Land Service Inc. With their help, the compacted soil was loosened and seeded with native grasses and planted with forbs. Native species of shrubs and trees, including White Pines and Red Maples, were planted in affected areas. Their work also included digging out and removing the root system of the Phragmites found near the teaching deck to ensure that they wouldn’t come back.
Even though the physical process is complete, there is still a lot of work to be done. Our plan is that with a little help, the land will return to as close to original as possible.
The native plants and seeds in the restoration areas are just beginning to get established. The most important action we can take is to avoid walking in these areas and stay on the marked trails. While we love seeing people use the trails, staying out of the restoration sites gives the land much-needed time to become more established. With careful stewardship, we will see a tremendous change in these areas over the next two years. We thank you for your cooperation with this restoration effort.