Youth Conservation Corps – Week 3 Done, 1 More to Go!

It’s hard to believe that there is only one week left in this year’s program. One of our main goals has been to get the youth engaged and dedicated to conservation activities. This goal has required us to try to strike a balance between education, hard work, and fun. Through the help of several special visitors and local organizations, we have successfully kept our participants excited and enthusiastic about nature conservation. Take a look at what we did during week 3!

20140701_115427On Tuesday we visited the Southview Oak Savanna to pull invasive plants and collect seeds from native plants. 

20140702_115838On Wednesday, Dr. Mike Weintraub of the University of Toledo taught us about the importance of soil in the Oak Openings!20140702_111854Part of Dr. Weintraub’s presentation included group projects in which the participants took soil samples to measure the length of the A horizon, tested the water infiltration rate into the ground, performed a soil ribboning analysis, and sampled earthworms!

20140703_125543On Thursday we picked up trash at both the Waterberry Wetwoods and Herr Road Property. Look at all the amazing stuff we cleared away!

Stay tuned for the final update!

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 2 Roundup

Week 2 of the Youth Conservation Corps is complete! We had a fun-filled learning experience, packed with adventures in Wildwood Metropark, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, and Kitty Todd Nature Preserve.

20140624_113311On Tuesday we took a geology field trip at Wildwood Metropark with Dr. Timothy Fisher of the University of Toledo.

20140625_104837Ryan Schroeder, the local district preserve manager of the Ohio Natural Resources Department, gave us an exciting tour of Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve on Wednesday.

20140625_105126We found all sorts of interesting critters in the water at Irwin Prairie, including crayfish, tadpoles, and snails!

20140626_100622We visited Kitty Todd Nature Preserve on Thursday. Ryan Gauger of the Nature Conservancy gave us a great trek through the savanna and prairie at the preserve and showed us several rare plants!
20140626_095739 We learned a lot about the role of fire in the Oak Openings. The kids also got to see what kind of safety gear practitioners of prescribed fire wear on the job.20140626_110950After the nature walk with Ryan, we worked hard to clear away encroaching woody plants on the preserve.

This year’s program is already halfway complete! We are striving to get kids interested in nature by immersing them in our local natural areas and creating positive, memorable experiences for them. Through hands-on activities and instructive lessons, we hope to make the Oak Openings region a more meaningful place to our youth.

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 1 Complete!

The Olander Park System’s Youth Conservation Corps is underway! This program runs for 4 weeks from June 17th to July 10th. It aims to teach middle school children about environmental conservation and increase their awareness of the Oak Openings Region. Here are some photos from the first week of activities. More to come!

Learning how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park

On Tuesday we learned how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park.

On Tuesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings!

On Wednesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings at Sylvan Prairie!

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park…

On Thursday we also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

And also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

Next to come: Adventures during Week 2!

Protecting Young Trees

In 2013, we planted almost 500 trees and shrubs at Sylvan Prairie Park. Most of them were planted along Smith Ditch, which we have been restoring to a more natural stream system. One thing needed for a waterway to function as a healthy stream is trees and shrubs growing along its banks. The wooded zone running along side a stream or river is called the riparian zone. We planted young shrubs and trees along Smith Ditch to create a wooded riparian zone. This will create wildlife habitat along the stream, and make a corridor for wildlife to move safely up and down the stream. The shade from the trees and shrubs falling on the moving water of the stream will also keep the water at a nice cool temperature in the summer, which will allow fish to live and hopefully spawn (lay eggs) in this stream.

However, the bark and stems of newly planted young trees and shrubs are a tasty treat for deer and rabbits. Especially in the winter when their preferred foods like grass and leaves are gone. So before the winter really sets in, we needed to put protection on these young trees and shrubs to discourage deer and rabbits from munching on them. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in these pictures, our timing was a little late. Most of the trees and shrubs are still doing okay, and our tree wraps will help them make it through the winter. But we had to work through some wintry weather ourselves to get it done. Thank you to the Wild Ones hardy volunteers who came out to help us!

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Dedicated volunteers from Wild Ones!

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Is this protective tree wrap, or an artistic sculpture?

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It was windy out there!


Restoration Experiment

Did you know that TOPS owns a 7-acre parcel where Herr Road crosses Ten Mile Creek?


Vernal Pool at TOPS Herr Road property

Currently, the Herr Road property contains floodplain forest, a vernal pool and some old turf areas. But the old turf area has stopped looking like a yard … over the past several years, some cool native plants started just growing up in the turf. We’re going to help that area change back into native wildlife habitat by removing the turf that’s left and helping native plants grow in its place.

We’re going to do a habitat restoration experiment there. We’re trying two methods of turf removal … scraping the turf off with a loader and spraying the turf with herbicide. Then, we’re going to sow native seeds in half of the scraped areas and half of the sprayed areas. In the other half of the scraped and sprayed areas, we’re going to see what plants grow up from the seed bank … like those natives that already grew through the turf all on their own.

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Scraping the turf off

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