Partnering for Mother Earth

Geauga Park District & Kent State University at Geauga announce exciting project

In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day this month, Geauga Park District and Kent State University at Geauga are proud to announce a partnership toward a couple hundred seedlings and efforts of ecosystem restoration at Orchard Hills Park in Chesterland.

A variety of trees and shrubs – sugar maple, beech, spicebush, hickory and oak – have been growing for about four weeks now in containers at the university’s greenhouse, a very visible and intriguing site on its Geauga campus.

All the seed was collected last year from park property by the Park District’s Natural Resource Management Department and has been watered and cared for by department staff and park volunteers.

The goal at Orchard Hills Park, managed as a golf course until 2007, was to reforest one fairway a year for at least 10 years. Transfer of the greenhouse’s plants to the park’s fifth fairway is expected in late fall or next spring, said Park Biologist Paul Pira.

All (public and media) are cordially invited to Kent State Geauga’s Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 19, from noon to 4 p.m., that will feature a tour of the greenhouse project at the university, 14111 Claridon Troy Road in Burton. Hosted by the GAIA Society – pronounced “guy-a” – which is the science and environmental student organization, the program will also include activities for children and opportunities for community members to learn about bucket gardens with the dedication of a perennial native plant garden.

As Kent State University at Geauga celebrates it 50-year anniversary, a component of its strategic plan focuses on community partnerships – and it has become evident that partnerships are really what the campus was built on, said Carol Gardner, special assistant at Kent State Geauga.

All its objectives for this special year integrate the campus to its community.

“Our partnership with Geauga Park District evolved from conversations about how we could help each other,” said Gardner. “The campus greenhouse had not been utilized in the way it was initially intended over the last few years. This project rejuvenates its purpose. It’s a perfect fit, and we are hopeful about future projects with Geauga parks.”

This project shows promise to lead to more partnership between the two organizations, as well.

For instance, Park Biologist Paul Pira has already drafted a management plan of planting and trail recommendations for the university’s Geauga branch property, consisting of 87 acres of forests, wetlands, streams and more. Cooperative research can utilize the university’s property and the parks. And the two are also teaming up to increase the number of student internship opportunities in the parks.

milkweed seedlings with field naturalist Tami Gingrich

IN ADDITION TO TREES… Milkweed seed pods were also collected last year, dried and kept over the winter at Holden Arboretum’s controlled freezers, and these important plants are also growing in the greenhouse.

Why milkweed? Odds are good you didn’t see a single Monarch butterfly this year – or if you did, you saw just a few. Not only have Monarchs become sparse in Geauga County, but Mexico saw its smallest population overwintering since 1975, when counting began.

A major factor in this sad drop has been loss of habitat, both in the U.S. and in Mexico. Corn and soybean productions is skyrocketing for biofuels, and seeds are genetically modified to tolerate herbicides, minimizing milkweed-containing fields. Also, consider more aggressive mowing and use of herbicides on roadsides, and 2.2 million acres of development a year.

“There is great concern for the Monarch population, so we’re trying to educate the public on the plight of the Monarch and what we can do as an agency or individual homeowners,” Pira said. “It’s important to try to make a difference. You can do it with these little plots of milkweed in your yard. It will help.”

Milkweed plants from the greenhouse will be free to the public on Earth Day, April 22, at The West Woods Nature Center in Russell Township from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Big Creek Park’s Donald W. Meyer Center in Chardon Township from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Plants will be available in clusters of 10 to 12 in a pot, one pot per family, which should be planted in well drained, sunny soil.

DID YOU KNOW…? Lake Catholic High School is conducting a similar project for Orchard Hills Park at its greenhouse, where Environmental Science students will plant, monitor, water and care for the plants.

Holden Arboretum added ash tree seeds to that effort, said Pira: “We’re having a huge dieback of ash trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer, so they’re doing a bunch of stream restoration sites and looking to replace areas where, hopefully, some ash will survive and be OK.”

Some ashes have already succeeded at Orchard Hills Park, Pira added.

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Geauga News
Author: Geauga News