Planting the parks: Reforestation for our next 100 years
Chris Chaney, Park Biologist
As we celebrate the park district’s centennial anniversary this year, we are also marking 100 years of conservation, preservation and connecting people to nature in Summit County.
But what is conservation? The word ‘conservation’ means different things to different people, but most of us can agree on this definition: carefully using valuable natural substances that exist in limited amounts in order to make certain that they will be available for as long a time as possible. While the best way to protect our resources is to avoid using them in the first place, the next best way to engage in conservation is to replenish depleted natural resources. To commemorate our centennial anniversary and continue with the park district’s legacy of conservation, Summit Metro Parks is planting 100 acres of trees at Metro Parks countywide.
WHY PLANT TREES?
Much like our wetlands, forested areas in Ohio have been severely impacted over the years. Ohio currently has approximately 30 percent forest cover, down significantly from a historic high of about 95 percent. Temperate forests are the most productive habitat on Earth after estuaries, wetlands and tropical rain forests. They offer many benefits such as shade, wind protection, wildlife habitat and recreation. Forests also provide services that we sometimes take for granted, including oxygenation, carbon sequestration, soil stabilization, reduced runoff, rain seeding and more! All of these services directly benefit Summit County residents in the form of cleaner air, cleaner water and more predictable weather patterns.
Our commemorative Centennial Groves will be readily visible to visitors and are symbolized in the centennial logo (seen below), signifying the park district’s long-term stability and mission to protect natural resources. More importantly, it’s our duty to help nature out by supporting species and habitat protection.
WHAT ARE CENTENNIAL GROVES?
The Centennial Grove initiative is an ambitious goal to plant 100 acres in honor of the park district’s first 100 years. A total of 22 individual groves were carefully selected from the total pool of possibilities. To be considered for reforestation, an area must meet the following criteria:
- Currently unused for recreation
- Not regenerating well on its own
- Free from any potential historically significant sites
Once the Centennial Grove sites were selected, park staff developed planting plans and conducted cultural resources surveys to confirm the absence of any artifacts. Planting plans take into account site conditions like land use history and hydrology, as well as the historic forest type at each site and community composition of adjacent forests. Several species were selected because they are rare, threatened or endangered, or are appropriate for assisted migration — planting species that are expected to move into our region or perform well under climate change scenarios.
HOW WILL WE PLANT THE GROVES?
Planting 100 acres is no small task. In fact, realization of this vision has brought together hundreds of people — staff from all park district departments, volunteers, donors and landscaping experts, all dedicated to the implementation of plans developed over the past several years. During the spring and fall, each site must be prepared according to its specific needs, and once plant materials are acquired, tens of thousands of holes must be dug and planted. Post-planting maintenance is required for several years to ensure success, including installation of plastic tubing to protect the trees from animals.
To date, 3,276 trees and shrubs have been planted across approximately 20 acres at Tallmadge Meadows in Munroe Falls Metro Park, the Liberty Park Nature Center and Twinsburg Ledges Area at Liberty Park, the main entrance of Hampton Hills Metro Park, the Brushwood Lodge Area at Furnace Run Metro Park and along the Towpath Trail in the Confluence Area. The Twinsburg Ledges and Tallmadge Meadows Centennial Groves were funded by visionary donors who were inspired by the benefits of trees for everyone’s future. Volunteer planting events at Munroe Falls, Firestone and Goodyear Heights Metro Parks have been scheduled for fall 2021. We have also completed the construction of a nursery where we are growing thousands of native trees and shrubs from local genotypes to be planted in Centennial Groves.