The U.S. Army celebrated National Public Lands Day in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with several events in September and October.
Four Army installations and an Army Corps of Engineers Lake Project were the sites of plantings and trail renovation projects, although volunteer involvement was curtailed because of heightened security.
Organizers took the sudden change in plans philosophically. “We were disappointed at having to curtail public involvement in our National Public Lands Day projects this year,” said the Army’s Chesapeake Bay Program coordinator, Janmichael Graine. “However, we decided that it was important for us to go ahead with our planned projects, both to keep the momentum of Army participation in National Public Lands Day going and to avoid conceding any further disruption to the Army’s daily life.”
Two events took place at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeast Maryland. The U.S. Army Environmental Center completed a BayScapes demonstration garden at their headquarters building in the Edgewood Area of the installation. Volunteers from the Boy Scouts and USAEC planted more than 700 flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees in the BayScapes garden, which uses native vegetation to improve water quality and provide habitat.
In the Aberdeen Area, staff from the Environmental Conservation and Restoration Division worked on restoring the plantings around the historic Mitchell House to its 19th century design. They planted pear and plum trees, and hope to graft branches from the remnants of a 19th century peach orchard that now grows wild in a few isolated places on post.
Flowers characteristic of Victorian gardens were planted, as well as windbreaks of white cedar.
Fort A.P. Hill, located seven miles southeast of Fredericksburg, VA, also worked on a planting project.
Cadets from the Caroline County Junior ROTC and staff from the Environmental and Natural Resources Division began a phased planting of a 3,000-square-foot hummingbird, butterfly and bee garden using native plants known to attract them.
Volunteers also weeded, pruned and mulched the Virginia Medal of Honor Memorial, which names every Virginian who has received the Congressional Medal of Honor. In addition, they did maintenance work on 21 American Heritage trees that have been planted from the seeds of trees selected from the National Register of Historic Trees.
¢t Carlisle Barracks, east of Harrisburg, PA, volunteers connected the Borough of Carlisle’s Letort Scenic Trail and the Middlesex Township trail by renovating a stretch of streamside trail. It runs along the installation’s Heritage Park, which contains a collection of American Heritage Trees and the Colonial-era Wilson Home. Members of the Safety and Environmental Management Office were joined by 65 local Girl Scouts, Brownies, Boy Scouts and community volunteers who removed weeds and overgrowth, and covered the trail with mulch. They also installed four interpretive signs explaining the trees’ heritage, the history of the Wilson Home and the functions of a wetlands area near the trail.
At Fort Belvoir, on the Potomac River south of Washington, D.C., members of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division made improvements to the Potomac View Trail, which follows the Potomac River at Fort Belvoir’s eastern boundary. They were joined by nearly 40 volunteers from the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Fairfax Audubon Society and the community. Together, they placed wood chips on a nearly mile-long length of trail, installed interpretive signs explaining the history of the river and renovated benches.
At the northern end of the watershed, the Army Corps of Engineers built and installed 20 fish habitat structures in Hammond Lake, located 10 miles from the New York border in north central Pennsylvania.
Park rangers were joined by staff from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and 40 volunteers from three local bass fishing clubs and the community.
The five-foot structures, known as porcupine cribs, were built with overlapping hemlock slats that resemble porcupine quills.
Juvenile fish use them to hide from predators and feed on the phytoplankton and aquatic insects they attract. Not only do they help juvenile sports fish to reach adulthood, but the structures also attract adult bass who feed on the fish hiding there.
The six U.S. Army projects in the watershed were only a fraction of the National Public Lands Day Projects occurring concurrently around the nation. An estimated 50,000 volunteers worked on projects valued at $8 million at 350 sites.
The National Public Lands Day Projects concept began in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers. Over the last eight years it has grown into a public-private partnership coordinated by the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, and involves the Department of Defense, federal, state and local land agencies, many non-profit conservation organizations and corporations such as Toyota and the Outdoor Life Network.