As the end of the year rolls around, I'm reflecting how much our Serps Crew got done this year! We met our goals with volunteer hours, worked through some of the most beastly weather, and really had a great time. We had some wonderful young people helping us these past months! One of them could keep two sawyers busy on any workday morning! How incredible to see young people taking an interest in this restoration project, so near and dear to some of us.
Our Serps Crew had a busy year with our workdays! We have worked our way around Goat Hill, did some trail clearing and habitat restoration, and collected seeds to be scattered next spring. We have restored many acres of Barrens habitat. We have had visitors and guided hikes.
Chrome Barrens trails are pretty clear now. Upper Chrome needs our work to restore some of the grasslands. We walked the trails to get some idea of what we can do to add trail markers to what our Girl Scout did. Lower Chrome looks to be in good shape, except for a few workdays to take out the young Eastern red cedars and pitch pine.
We assisted Nottingham County Park in clearing out some of the burned trees along the trails. The Park's trail system is a wonderful way to get to know the Serpentine Barrens geology, flora, and fauna.
New Texas remains some of the best examples of warm weather grasses and Serpentine Barrens habitat within all of our State Line sites.
In January, TNC has planned a State Line Serpentine Barrens roundtable discussion to give us the support we need to continue our habitat restoration work. I'll report on this after the meeting!
As the year ends, I'll be preparing my reports for PPFF. We've got big plans for 2011.
September 21, Tuesday
The Friends group has been busy this month! We did have to reschedule two workdays due to weather and lack of sawyers. We need trained sawyers, so consider contacting us so we can put in for the training.
We hiked the New Texas Barrens grasslands two weeks ago and found that the grasses have come back in full force. We saw vast examples of all five of the warm-season grasses in full force! The work of the volunteers has paid off and given New Texas their well-deserved reputation of having the best examples of serpentine grasses. A few of the sites are in need of some maintenance, so we will be including some workdays there over the next months.
The Sept. 16 New Texas workday went well. Ruth and I dragged for Mike W and Henry W who lopped and sawed our way through a massive grove of young autumn olives. That particular grassland will need more work, but for now, we beat back the invasives to give the grasses a chance to grow. Next year, we may see the results of this year's work. One thing is for sure! Watching the grass grow in a serpentine barrens environment can be exciting!
Our next workday is Sept. 23 at Goat Hill. We are trying to find enough volunteers to make this worthwhile. Meet us at the parking lot on Red Pump. More on this workday later this week.
August 30, Monday
The month of August has been pretty hot and humid around these parts. And our August workdays were cancelled due to high heat. The fameflowers were gorgeous, though, over at Goat Hill. Even NCP saw some nice blooms up at the intersection of Doe and Buck trails. The heat seems to be good for the Barrens' plants! One drawback has been that the chiggers and ticks are all over the place, even in the park on the rocky trails. Think Deep Woods Off or Deet in some form if you want to be out on the Barrens!
We now have a draft map of the trails in Goat Hill that our volunteer Mike Bertram has marked for us. According to Ranger Joe Frassetta, the Boy Scouts have blazed the trails and hikers can now see the blazes on the trails. I'm holding off on publishing the map until we confirm that Joe and the Friends are both using the same map! However, we do know that the trails we have marked are there. We have walked them and two of our volunteers worked diligently to clear much of the bigger loop. We will need to go back out to check the trails before the Sept. 18 hike.
July 30, Friday
Beautiful day in Goat Hill today! Warm with a cool breeze! Nine of us showed up to assist The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in habitat restoration in the grasslands. TNC's summer intern, Logan, joined us as well. We had some new volunteers join us, Mike and Lisa. Thanks to all for your help! Our sawyers were Kent, Mike W, and Henry. Mostly, we lopped off the brush, such as autumn olive trees, pines, and Eastern red cedars, that had begun encroaching. Great fun and good folks to spend time with. ~Cindy
July 20, Tuesday, Chrome
Bob Barker, one of our Serps Crew, hiked the Chrome Barrens this morning. Here is his report:
Thanks, Bob, for scouting this out! We will get a small crew together to get this work done!
July 18, Sunday, Nottingham
The Friends held a thank-you party for Mike Bertram and Jim Dudley who have retired from the Serps Crew. We enjoyed getting together one last time. Ruth Galantino made greenbrier wreaths for Mike and Jim, and we all signed two slabs of white oak from our Chrome site - sanded to a fine surface by Henry Whitesel. We will miss Mike and Jim!
For those who know Mike's insatiable passion for volunteering, you'll be pleased to see that Mike and Kathy have taken up the cause of vernal ponds near their new South Mountain home. We wish them well!
July 8, Goat Hill, Nottingham
We had to reschedule this workday due to high temperatures. We don't work when the temperatures top 90F or more. The Barrens tend to be 10 to 15F degrees warmer than the local area.
July 1, Thursday
The Friends cleared invasives at New Texas Serpentine Barrens. It was a breezy day as we extended two grasslands, pushing back the boundaries. The grasses are coming back full force! Thanks to the group!
Dr. Hurley's class from Ursinus College came to Nottingham County Park to hear Bob Barker, a member of our Friends' group, talk about the local area geology and history of mining. Bob led the students through a fascinating history of how the land and geology influenced the region and people over the past 300 years.
One such interesting personality, Isaac Tyson, Jr., (1792-1861), a Quaker businessman, was the first to discover the connection between chromite and the Serpentine Barrens. He bought up as much serpentine lands as he could, which gave him access to the local area chromite. Once the Siberian mines dried up, Isaac Tyson owned the world's monopoly on chromite!
Good presentation, Bob! Dr. Hurley, we enjoyed the students and hope to see them again! We will be looking for them to come to one of our workdays. And we hope your class will consider a trip to Goat Hill soon.
Mike Bertram led a TNC sponsored hike into Goat Hill. We had a dozen walkers who came to enjoy a walk through Goat Hill where we saw maidenhair fern (and other ferns), reindeer moss, partridge pea, purple gerardia, and some classic serpentine geology. We will post some of the pictures on the site, so come back and visit to see some photos.
Mike Bertram led some hikers from the Appalachian Mountain Club on a walk through Goat Hill where they enjoyed the beginnings of fall changes. Mike said it was really wet, especially at stream crossings.
GlaxoSmithKlein of Marietta, Penna, generously supported a volunteer workday with the Friends at New Texas, cleaning up and expanding grasslands. A fun day was had by all and a lot of work was accomplished! Thanks to GSK for supporting this event! The Friends appreciate the interest and help!
The Friends assisted TNC Stewards Molly Anderson and George Gress today clearing two grassy areas and the upper scraped areas. It's gratifying to see how the Serpentine plants and prairie grasses have come back after all the work. The temperature in the surrounding area reached 86F, but there in the Serpentine environment, George measured 43C, which we calculate as 109F.
The efforts of Mike Bertram, Ruth Galantino, Kay Davies, and Henry Whitesel have paid off! Three years ago, the upper area was scraped and Ruth and Kay planted plugs and grass seeds. The area is now rich with Serpentine plants. We found dozens of fameflowers ready to bloom. We saw hairy chickweed, New Jersey tea, some phlox, and centaury. We also found a Chinquapin oak and two hollys. We found a plant no one could identify - we await identification by Molly Anderson and George Gress.
This just in - Elaine P. emailed to say that on July 14, her daughter Liz spotted a bobcat in the general vicinity of Chrome Barrens, once called Fifth Street Barrens, close to Oxford. Liz said that she had to slow down to avoid hitting it and got close enough to see the spots, bobbed tail, and ear tufts. Location was on Little Elk Creek Road, near Fifth Street and Mt. Pleasant.
I was up on Buck Trail in Nottingham County Park this morning looking for signs that the fameflower are about to bloom. The prairie grasses are coming back in full force, thanks to the prescribed burn that took place there March 2008. And where the serpentine was scraped several years ago, the fameflowers have returned and continue to bloom. I could see the small delicate stems and buds preparing for the bloom.
We've had spectacular weather here in West Nottingham Township this spring and summer - rain and cooler temperatures seem to have made the prairie grasses just a bit brighter.