January 17, 2015 – High Rock Park

I anticipated January’s Restoration Workshop to be an ill-attended,  cold affair. It was deep winter – a time when volunteers are typically few,  Dom, one of our regulars was away, and early weather reports suggested the day was going to be clear, but very cold. “Probably only four of us,” I thought, so I was somewhat surprised to find a volunteer waiting in his car by the shed at Nevada Avenue. I asked him what he was waiting for, expecting the answer to be that he was waiting for one of the many Greenbelt sponsored weekend events to begin, and was even more surprised when he said he was waiting for a group of Cub Scouts that were coming to some kind of a restoration project! No-one else was around so that would have to be us!

And so they did come. Eventually there were 10 of us, Protectors, kids, and parents included. We passed out gloves and tools – clippers to the small people and loppers to the others – and set off toward this month’s site on the Blue Trail south of Seaview. There was a lot of youthful enthusiasm to be handled, so on the way Brian explained what the colored blazes on the trees meant, and had a few of the scouts take turns following the blazes to lead the way. I had a needless worry that the distance might be a little far, that boredom might set in, but there was plenty of energy to get us there.

There was one young girl among the boys, perhaps a sister but I didn’t ask, who was perceptive and quite comfortable in the woods. As it turned out, one of the parents was active in Leave No Trace, and the scout leaders had done a good job of passing that organization’s values to the kids. Tenants of Leave No Trace is to stick to the trails, do no damage and leave no debris in the woods. Follow this link if you want to learn more: https://lnt.org/about.

Our work area has been heavily disturbed and infested with a variety of twining, woody vines and other, non-native and un-wanted plants. We could only make a dent there, so we concentrated out efforts on vines immediately adjacent to the trail – of which there were decidedly no lack. This allowed us to work in from the trail side and avoid some of the briars; none-the-less the thorns did cause some unexpected grief. In several places, especially where there were Pin Oaks close to the trail with skirts of descending branches, Bittersweet had twined up and almost covered the entire tree. The only way to disencumber these “teepees” of twisted vines was to begin from side accessible from the trail.

The adults used the loppers and went after the really big stuff, and the kids were set to looking for small saplings and shrubs encumbered with Japanese Honeysuckle. We explained that the small plants were much more vulnerable to being strangled by the vines than the larger trees, but that we went after the big vines too because they would otherwise keep producing seeds and make more trouble in the future.

At the break Elaine distributed cookies and fruit – clementines this time – and afterwards the rinds were collected to be brought back and discarded at High Rock. I’m afraid I usually break one of the rules of Leave No Trace when we have bananas; these I usually pitch off the trail out of sight, explaining that the skins will be brown and almost invisible in a day and will return some elements, especially nitrogen and potassium, to the soil. Citrus is a different matter however; it is both slow to rot (some sources say citrus takes 50 times as long as bananas to decompose) and remains very visible, so I don’t leave those peels behind.

We ended this workshop a few at a time, leaving according to our individual schedules. I was pleased to note that everyone leaving early was familiar enough with the Greenbelt to need little or no direction to find the way back. The last of us followed one of our young leaders who did a pretty good job of following the blazes – in fact a very good job considering that we chose to come back by a slightly different route than we had taken coming in. He got us to where we could see the parking lot from an upper slope and then we were all home free.

We few remaining didn’t have a lot of time left, so after storing the tools and gloves we chose to make a quick loop to Walker Pond and back. This turned out to be a nice crisp, clear day to be in the woods, a day to enjoy… _ _ _ _ _