Almost six years ago Reedy Creek Coalition and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay decided to do something about a bare slope in Forest Hill Park; improving water qualilty was the goal. We do not have “before” pictures so you will need to use your imagination…
- Hard, compacted, bare soil (if you want to call it soil.) This stuff was dead; real soil is alive, moisture retentive and complex.
- What little did grow there was mowed down.
- There were no plants to hold the leaves that fell from nearby trees. It either blew away or was removed.
- When it rained water ran off the slope, into the road and down the hill. Actually by the time it got to the road, it was a little muddy stream carrying sediment down to the lake.
Got the picture?
We planted about 30 small trees in February, 2010. Unfortunately, the following summer was hot and dry with July temperatures of 105 degrees and only about an inch of rain all month. Attempts to water the trees were not successful; water ran off the slope instead of into the ground, rain did the same and most of the trees died. The good thing was the sign: “NO MOWING. HABITAT RESTORATION IN PROGRESS”. That made all the difference. Mowing stopped. Nature took over.
Loblolly pines were the first to sprout and it wasn’t long before there were enough of them to hold some autumn leaves on the slope. Other plants began to grow. The loblolly have now been joined by several eastern red cedar, Virginia pines, a few American holly seedlings, and the occasional little blueberry. Grasses help hold the soil. Acorns, hickory nuts, and the seeds of tulip poplar in the leaf litter offer hope. There are even a few clumps of moss and some tiny mushrooms at work when it’s damp.
This slope, once bare and ugly, now holds much more of the rain that falls there and is coming to life. Benefits include cleaner water, food and habitat, beauty and lessons learned. Simply not mowing made all the difference; nature did the rest. Thanks to Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities for letting the slope grow!