“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking.” Africa’s Wangari Maathai would have felt real kinship with the FLMSP tree-planting volunteers.
In the spring of 2016, Rick Forrester and his reforestation team had potted over 300 seedlings, a 50% increase over 2015. By the end of the year, 179 of those trees and shrubs were lovingly settled in their new homes along our trail. He hopes to get more in the ground before spring if weather permits.
Rick says the group could have planted more of the trees if not for a health problem he experienced just before planting was to start in October. Considering the problem required immediate major heart surgery, we can certainly forgive him for the small postponement.
To make up for lost time, the team continued planting up until the final day of the year, sometimes in frigid conditions. On December 11, the volunteers were working at Branch Hill. “It was a beautiful day although the trees were popsicles when they came out of the pots,” Rick reported.
It wasn’t much better the next weekend, but Rick remained upbeat. “South of Beech Road, a red tail hawk was soaring overhead with his characteristic calling encouraging the volunteer effort. Two deer also checked out the planting adventure before bounding back into the woods on the east side of the trail.” The potted soil was still frozen, but “with a little persuasion from a rubber mallet, the trees were set free from their plastic jails and appreciated their better homes in the ground.”
Before planting, the reforestation crew identified areas most in need of trees, focusing on the trail section between Loveland and Camp Dennison. The tree-planting expeditions began with careful selection of the seedlings nursed all summer in pots in Rick’s Maineville backyard. Each species is native to our area and approved for planting in a river-valley environment. They were loaded in trucks and vans along with compost, stakes, water jugs and tools and transported to the planting areas.
The area near the I-275 bridge was particularly difficult because of an abundance of gravel and rocks. “We were a happy chain-gang with picks, shovels, and even sledge hammers,” said Rick. “In a few years, the denuded area around the overpass will be looking great with redbud, flowering dogwoods, elms, cedars, oaks , and others species all giving great shade and fall colors to joggers, bicyclists, bird watchers, and walkers. Two nanny berry bushes will fill out and hide some of the graffiti on the bridge supports.”
Rick hopes the larger stakes identifying each new tree will help protect them from damage and increase the survival rate over the already good 80% of last year’s plantings. Look for the new trees along the trail south of Loveland, and imagine the beauty they will add for years to come.
“It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference,” said Wangari Maathai. “My little thing is planting trees.” We’re grateful a number of FLMSP volunteers agree with her.