Monday, May 6, 2019

An Arbor Day effort

By Beth Sullivan
Arbor Day has been around as long as I can remember. That’s because they will be celebrating 150 years of inspiring people to plant trees, in 2022. The Arbor Day Foundation was created in 1972 on the centennial anniversary of the first Arbor Day observance .
When I was young, we ordered small seedling trees to plant on a family farm. We did it other years as Scouts and then later when my own kids were in 4-H. I never really took time to research the Arbor Day Foundation until just recently, and that was thanks to yet another encounter with kids planting trees to help the planet. It is a great website with lots of interesting information about trees from all over and their amazing significance to the health of our world. You can find out more about Arbor Day here.  
The wetland woods are a perfect place for red maples.

Scout service project

Recently a new member, Jeff Alexander, contacted me about possible projects for his son’s Cub Scout pack to do to help Avalonia. With Arbor Day and Earth Day all at the end of April, they had decided to get some tree seedlings from the Foundation and wanted to find a good place to plant them. It’s always so tempting to obtain fun and fancy flowering plants, which is fine if you are establishing them on your own home property, but on a nature preserve we are obliged to keep things as native and close to local types as possible. There was quite a variety of species offered, but they decided, wisely, on species that are native to this area and would happily survive if given the right spot to set down their roots.
We wanted to find a preserve that would provide easy access for the kids, where they could work without too much trouble and bring supplies for the work day. These were young Cub Scouts, and we wanted to make sure they had a good experience. We chose the Woodlot Sanctuary in Stonington, their home town, for its ease of access and variety of habitats to suit the needs of the seedlings. Jeff and I met ahead of time to identify where each species might work best, and set stakes in to mark the spots. We knew the red maples require moist soils so the wetlands adjacent to the entrance area would be perfect. The oaks required more upland soils. More than a decade ago there had been some harvesting done on the property, and there remained some old oak stumps and areas of openings where we knew the seedlings would be happy. Those areas of richer soils would also be ideal for the hoped for sugar maples. There are also two big old pine trees on the preserve. It is where I most frequently see our barred owl and one of the few areas with any evergreen coverage at all. We chose that area for planting a nice number of white pine seedlings so that someday, those pines will grow up and provide a small grove of protection for more owls.
It took a team to get the big rock out of the ground.

Celebrating successful rock removal and a perfect hole for planting.

White pine seedlings await planting.

Enthusiastic Cub Scouts at work

The day of planting arrived: Saturday April 27th, and, as were getting used to, it was raw and damp. There were a few no-shows, but the pack arrived: four dads, four Scouts and a couple of siblings. They came with lots of enthusiasm! We talked a little about why each plant needed a special spot, and they came very well prepared with water and mulch and even wire caging to deter deer browsing. Digging in the woods is not easy, there are lots of roots to work around, and of course the occasional buried boulder. Dads came in very handy for those efforts but the kids provided a big cheering team.
It took a couple of hours to get them all placed and planted. Over all there were about 20 seedlings planted. The sugar maples were not available at this time. Jeff and his own kids stayed longer to make sure all were properly caged and secured. There are stakes near each plant with the scout’s name on it. Ownership might encourage a deeper interest in the future of their tree, and the forest as a whole. They are encouraged to visit, bring water during summer dry times, and I promised the group a guided hike when the weather gets nicer.
I don’t know how to guess percentages, but I might think that kids engaged in projects such as this will have a far higher rate of being interested in caring for the Earth. Right now our Mother Earth needs all the help she can get. There is absolutely nothing more hopeful than planting a tree.
Thank you to Stonington Cub Scout Pack 37 and their leaders.
Proud to be from Pack 37.

Making sure each seedling got water.

The Scouts put their name on a stake beside their plants.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

1 comment:

  1. "The planting of a tree is a promise from one generation to the next. It is a bond of unconditional love between an individual and Mother Earth."

    Great job Scouts!