When it comes to natural resource management, if there is one thing that current GP leadership seems to be most proud of is planting trees. Now of course, planting trees is absolutely a very good thing and much needed. So let me explain how they have handled this all wrong in my opinion.
- They boast about having planted upwards of 120,000 trees as part of the Taking Root initiative. The first and in my opinion worst thing that they have done is that as far as I have been able to see, they have been planting trees in nearly all of the last little remaining open field pollinator habitats in most of the parks. (see examples here)
- Not only is it tragic that we are losing most of the last remaining pollinator habitats in many of the GP parks, but this practice violates one of the primary mandates of the Taking Root organization's initiative . . . " and do not replace native species in greenspaces."
- Now get this . . . while they are out planting 120,000 trees, and in direct violation of one of the Taking Roots mandates (many if not all in places where they shouldn't be planting), they are doing next to nothing to remove the catastrophic invasive Amur Honeysuckle shrubs that are growing all over the district, and throughout southwest Ohio. You see, when the forests floors are covered with AH and other invasive plants, trees are not able to germinate new seedlings, so in many forest areas throughout the GP district, there are no native tree seedlings or saplings growing. Furthermore, since the invasive plants compete heavily for water and nutrients, the mature trees that are growing in the forested areas are far more susceptible to attack from pests and diseases. Remove the invasive plants from throughout the park district so the trees can replant themselves, and so that the existing mature trees have a fighting chance of surviving.
- Here's a real shocker . . . earlier this past fall, GP leadership sent workers to Conrey Road (a property that was donated to the district), to bush hog over fifty acres of land there. Although they left all of the largest fruit bearing invasive trees and shrubs on the property, THEY CUT DOWN THOUSANDS OF NATIVE TREE SAPLINGS, INCLUDING HUNDREDS OF OAKS, HUNDREDS OF MAPLES, HUNDREDS OF HICKORIES, HUNDREDS OF SASSAFRAS, DOZENS OF ELDERBERRY, DOZENS OF SUMAC, . . . AND DOZENS OF WHITE ASH TREES!!! In doing this, they left jagged stubs, and deep ruts all over the fields.
- From their own 2014 Annual Report: "The areas selected for planting are chosen based on size, planting conditions and management concerns. Some trees are planted in landscape beds while most are planted in previously mowed grassy areas or existing fields. " Those are their own words!
Now let's take a look at some of the cool things they should be doing that will be a huge win for Great Parks . . .
- One of my ideas is to put the word out all throughout Hamilton County, to businesses, schools, churches,and any other property owners with large areas of regularly mowed lawn space, and ask them if they wouldn't like free trees planted on their property. If you want to plant 120,000 trees . . . or 2,000,000 trees, then plant them where they will do the most good . . . and no harm. What an awesome way to build community throughout Hamilton County! What an awesome example for others outside of our county to follow! What a huge win win!!!
- Now of course along with planting thousands of trees on these properties, I see no reason why we couldn't create a number of awesome pollinator habitats on these kinds of properties as well. More trees in support of the environment, less money spent on fuel and labor, less pollution from lawn mowers, and more habitats for our pollinators!
I will soon be providing a link to an album that shows many ideal locations where trees can be planted, relationships can be sewn, and no harm done to our pollinators.