By Stacey Wildberger
Wrapping up 2020 (can’t end soon enough) I wanted to take some time to thank all the volunteers that have come out to help Cape Conservation Corps with our restoration projects, a big one being our Wednesday Weed Warriors, a weekly removal of invasive species at the Serene Ravine. We started in mid-March with a kickoff event “Wine in the Weeds” to recruit volunteers and show the community what we did since 2012 at the Serene Ravine to eradicate invasive plants and establish natives. We had a great turnout and lots of interest but then COVID-19 hit and we were locked down. A few regulars showed up in the early weeks with masks and safe distancing to tackle the first to emerge Alliaria petiolata garlic mustard. As people became restless our volunteers continued to increase. We offered ice cream treats, Rita’s and Gatorade to keep them coming back. We had high school and middle school students trying to get service hours or build their leadership skills, scouts of all ages, as well as community members wanting to get involved. As the garlic mustard started to disappear the dreaded Cayratia japonicabushkiller began to rear its ugly head. The volunteers were shown what to look for and how to remove it (getting as much of the roots as possible). We showed them how it will quickly climb the small understory trees and shrubs as it tries to reach sunlight and will choke out and kill those trees. We worked diligently all summer, each week new volunteers would join us as others faded away. Some weeks we had 12-15 people working on a hot, humid Wednesday evening. The record number of bags pulled was 19 by 10 volunteers in early October. In 2012 when CCC (then known as Friends of Lake Claire) began their work at the Serene Ravine the bushkiller was discovered and reported to State and County officials. They confirmed that it was the first known population of this invasive creep. It is thought to have been introduced by a former homeowner in the area, and then escaped cultivation and overtook the Ravine. Early efforts to control this beast included Eco Goats and pesticides. As more native plants have been planted or arrived on their own we have stopped spraying and have opted now for hand pulling. We have experimented with a variety of ideas but little to no information has been found to eradicate it. We will continue our efforts to control it manually as we brainstorm other options.
In addition to our efforts to remove invasives we also want to encourage native plants that either have volunteered or have been planted by us to help the ecosystem along. We started last year with a large planting of Packera aurea golden ragwort to help us outcompete the garlic mustard (and it is working!) The beautiful early spring bloom of the golden ragwort enticed dog walkers and families to walk along the path. We followed up this year by planting 3 species of Carex (a grass-like plant) suited to different conditions found at the Serene Ravine. We followed that planting with another round of planting in mid-May. We planted some Phlox divaricata woodland phlox in 2 colors so next spring there will be even more color to the passerby. We also wanted to add some fall blooming plants so we added Eurybia divaricata white wood aster, Solidago flexicaulis zig-zag goldenrod and Aster cordifolius blue wood aster as well as the fern Athyrium filix-femina lady fern for texture. If you walked through there this fall you would have seen the colorful fall display and the happy pollinators.
Over the summer we applied for a Unity Gardens grant and received $700 to purchase additional plants. On October 17th we planted over 50 shrubs and 100 ferns along an area of high erosion. We are hoping the plantings will slow down, spread out and soak in the runoff from the road. Again, we had many volunteers from scouts, students, community members and board members there to help us. We appreciate the large number of volunteers that we have had this year and we hope many (or all) of them come back next year to continue our efforts. Of course we are always looking for new volunteers so please reach out to see how you can be part of the solution and help our ecosystem. Be a good steward of our land to help reach our goals for clean water and a healthy ecosystem. Thank you to Matthew Toronto for transporting our shrubs and ferns from St. Michaels to the Serene Ravine safely. Be sure to remember Matthew for all your hauling needs $75-100 DUMP RUNS! 443.838.4352
Another project we are excited about is Eagle Scout Candidate Sam Papps’ Eagle Scout project for the Serene Ravine. Sam is building three Leopold benches complete with plaques containing a different quote from Leopold about conservationism. We hope to have the project completed this month so stay tuned for pictures and then stop by to stroll through the Serene Ravine and enjoy the sights and sounds of Mother Nature from one of the new benches.
Another big project of ours this year was our annual Native Plant Fest and Sale. This was our 4th year doing this and much was changed this due to, well you know! We did not have much of a “Fest” feeling as we didn’t have informational tables but we still had many experts on hand to assist in finding your plants and answering your questions. We also had the added pressure to keep everyone safe so we implemented a safe plan by having one way in, one way out, limited the number of shoppers at a time and required social distancing and masks. The event was a huge success and people came from many surrounding counties to attend the event. The only problem was that we did NOT HAVE ENOUGH PLANTS. We ordered 1,450 plants, expending $9,000 of our funds, and still ran out in about an hour. We had to turn away a long line of native plant enthusiasts empty handed. For that we are terribly sorry. We did not anticipate this level of demand. We are working on ways to have more plants next year and hope for as less challenging environment as this pandemic ends! We thank you for the support of the sale and apologize if you were one of those that missed out.
Please follow us on Facebook, visit our website and become a member and/or volunteer. It takes money and muscle to build a better ecosystem for us all! https://capeconservationcorps.org/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org