March at the Great Swamp Watershed Association was all about volunteering and working outside this year. On Sunday, March 18, Director of Water Quality Programs Laura Kelm worked with the Morris County Park Commission and the Americorp NJ Watershed Ambassadors to lead more than 20 volunteers through cleanup activities at a new inside Loantaka Brook Reservation (Morris Township). After three hours of hard work, the nonnative plants are out and the natives are in along this short stretch of Loantaka Brook near Seaton Hackney Stables.
On Saturday, March 24, Director of Outreach and Education Hazel England, who also doubles as our land steward, led another large group of volunteers through trail maintenance tasks at our 53-acre Conservation Management Area (CMA) in Harding Township. Bridges were built, trails were mulched, and weeds were pulled. After all this hard work our CMA is ready for springtime visitors, so remember to pay us a visit at 1 Tiger Lily Lane.
Want to get the scoop on what really happened during our March volunteer days? Check out these two recent updates from our two volunteer group leaders, Laura and Hazel.
GSWA’s Annual Stream Cleanup & Enhancement by Laura Kelm
You might remember previous Great Swamp Watershed Association (GSWA) stream cleanups at Kitchell Pond where our volunteers collected trash from the grounds of Loantaka Brook Reservation. The good news is that our gatherings there have made a real difference! This year there was minimal trash around the pond, so we decided to change our work site and the focus of our event.
GSWA worked with Geoff Knapp from the Morris County Park Commission and Stephanie Queirolo, the AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador for the region, to plan this year’s volunteer work. On March 18th, 21 volunteers converged on Loantaka Brook Reservation’s South Street Recreation Area to refresh and enhance the stream bank along Loantaka Brook. Many of the participants were new to GSWA, including several students from Passaic County Community College.
Located next to Seton Hackney Stables, the area we focused on sheltered many invasive plant species and nuisance vines that were overtaking nearby trees and reducing local biodiversity. Using clippers and lots of manpower, the volunteers removed the vines and invasive plants and planted 15 native trees in their place.
The native trees that we planted will provide wildlife habitat, and their deep roots will help to stabilize the bank of Loantaka Brook. The plant material we removed from the site was collected by the Morris County Park Commission to be turned into mulch. We got much more accomplished than we had planned, but there is still more to be done to rid the entire area of invasive plants. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped out, and we hope to see you at future cleanups!
Volunteer Workday At The Conservation Management Area by Hazel England
Twenty-three people from near and far enjoyed the warm March weather and early blooming trout lilies and spicebush, while readying the GSWA CMA for spring. After the hurricanes and flooding of August, and the freak snows in October, the trails were in need of some TLC. Our volunteers spread wood mulch over paths leading a third of a mile away from the CMA entrance to the Silver Brook boardwalk bridge. This will allow hikers access without muddying up their boots quite so much.
Students from Passaic County College helped us clear introduced, non-native plant species away from several hundred small native shrubs. This will give our native plants time to establish themselves successfully without competing with invasives for light or nutrients. Because the CMA has a 28-acre fence around it to exclude deer, we have found that removing invasives and replanting native plants has allowed the forest understory to flourish.
Ten volunteers from the REI’s retail store in East Hanover—easily identified by their bright orange volunteer shirts—helped us construct a temporary bridge crossing that will join the CMA’s existing trail system with lands conserved by our neighbors at the Harding Land Trust. In the coming year, new trails will be created on HLT lands that will expand the total number of trail miles visitors can access. When all is said and done, a hike that begins at the CMA gate off of Tiger Lily Lane and concludes on HLT property along Harter Road will cover almost 2.5 miles of ground.
Thanks to all who volunteered their time! GSWA will having more weekend volunteer days as we manage the property and restore it to a functioning floodplain forest. Our next scheduled volunteer workday takes place on June 16. Register online at www.GreatSwamp.org/EventReg.htm.
Check out photos from the CMA volunteer day below or on GSWA's Flickr page!
Please join us at a future volunteer event!