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New Forest Steward Program AND 10th Anniversary of Greenbelt Forest Preserve

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h1Greenbelt’s Year of the Forest

If I thought Greenbelt’s 75th anniversary year was chockful of events, this year may turn out to be just as busy, with two new programs celebrating and taking care of the forests closest to us.  Here’s a short explanation (if I got it right) of the programs, and a heads-up for the first events.

Greenbelt Forest Preserve’s 10th Anniversary and Website

As a newcomer I would have assumed the 200+acre Greenbelt Forest Preserve had always been there, basking in its protected status.  But no, it was only after decades of citizen efforts to save these woods from development that they gained such protection.  In 2003 the City Council’s unanimous vote set those acres aside for the benefit of all – wildlife, flora, air quality, humans, et cetera.h2

That was 10 years ago, so it’s time to celebrate!

The celebrating began with Paul Downs’ article in the News Review January 10, 2013 “A Dream Come True… The forest Preserve at 10”.   Next, Paul Downs led a Winter Woods Walk in January (the photos here are from that walk).  Paul is the president of the Committee to Save the Green Belt, which formed in 1987 and led the battle to save these woods when the plans for their development was revealed.  The effort took until 2003, when the Preserve was formed.  Others who worked on this effort include Ruth Kastner, Rodney Roberts, Bill Rich, Yoni Siegel and Valerie Elliott.

The next event is this coming Saturday, February 16th –  a Nature Discovery Walk with Elaine Nakash, a local naturalist.  Meet at 10:30 a.m. at the Mowatt Memorial Church.  This week’s walk probably won’t be as white as that first one, or as cold.

After that there will be a Forest Ecology Walk on March 16th with Jorge Bogantes Montero of the Anacostia Watershed Society and Jimmy Soule, a local tree and plant expert.  More events for 2013 include participation in the Greenman Festival, nature writing and journaling, a Reel and Meal night focused on the Preserve, and more walks – for bats, insects, wild edibles and the Greenbelt Pumpkin.

For more information DO check out the brand new, very cool Greenbelt Forest Preserve website, thanks to the work of Kristi Fletcher (a contributor to Greenbelt Live).  It’ll be a growing source of information about the Preserve and events throughout the year.

Forest Steward Program

Complementing the 10th anniversary of our Preserve is a new program from the City of Greenbelt and CHEARS that will teach volunteer “forest stewards” how to survey Greenbelt’s tree canopy and help plan for the forest’s maintenance and regeneration – to make sure we maintain the 62% tree canopy we enjoy here (in contrast to most cities in this region, where the canopy is closer to 30%).  We can be proud of our trees but they need tending to.

The city, through the work of its assistant director of public works Lesley Riddle, has been awarded a $23,000 grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust toward that end.  Lesley will be hiring a professional forester to use the best available software to give the city a detailed analysis of forest health.

To do all the work required for the survey, Lesley will be recruiting and organizing training volunteers to do most of the legwork required for the survey.  She’s calling this volunteers effort the Forest Stewardship Program, and it’ll run from March through at least August.  Forest Stewards will receive 30 combined hours of classroom instruction and hands-on field training in identification of recommended native trees and invasive species, benefits of trees, tree risk assessment, conducting tree inventory, common insect and disease pests of trees, and proper hands-on planting and pruning experience. This is also a chance to use the new iTree mobile software, designed in collaboration with the US Forest Service and Davey Trees.  Twenty volunteers  are sought for the program.

To find out more, just attend the Interest Meeting on Wednesday, February 20th from 7 to 9 p.m. Lesley Riddle, and, from CHEARS, Kim Walsh and Kristen Wharton will explain the volunteer program and explain the importance of urban trees here in Greenbelt – their social and environmental benefits.  Click here to see the flyer with more information about the meeting.

Saturday, March 9 there will be a “Walk in the Woods” Symposium (not to be confused with the actual walk in the woods this Saturday, part of the Forest Preserve Anniversary celebration) featuring four speakers about the importance of urban forests. Drs. Maile Neel and Joe Sullivan from UMD’s Plant Science’s Department are two of the featured speakers, along with Craig Highfield from Forestry for the Bay, and Lincoln Smith, landscape designer and forest gardener with Forested.  It’s from 10 a.m. t0 2 p.m. at the Greenbelt Community Center.  There’s more information on the “Walking the Woods” Symposium Flyer.

Volunteer training and field work run from April through August.

Photos by Kristi Fletcher.

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