Planting Trees And Growing Education

Planting Trees And Growing Education

YOUTHFUL energy helped dig many of the 86 holes needed for the Oct. 30 tree planting, guided by volunteer volunteers from Rockbridge Area Master Gardeners Association. Taking a break from the action is Master Gardener (and Boxerwood board member) Dave Bryer, with Kendal staff member, Becky Edmondson, who facilitated Kendal’s participation.

Planting Trees And Growing Education

PARENT Laura Pearson brought six middle school girls to the event and they planted multiple trees together, recalling with fondness the first “plant-up” as Waddell fourth graders. “They even remembered some of the nicknames they gave the tree whips back in 2018,” marveled Boxerwood educator Elise Sheffield.

Planting Trees And Growing Education

ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL children in Virginia learn that protecting land is one way to keep rivers clean on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Boxerwood’s “Growing Native” program helps students put that learning into action. LDMS civics teacher Amanda Conway (right) and daughters Louise and Cora were among the 10 families participating in the project.

Collaborative Project Produces Riparian Buffer Along Creek

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. The same could also apply to planting a forest, at least a mini-forest now taking root along a previously open stretch of land near Woods Creek.

As a result of a creative partnership between propertyowner Kendal at Lexington and Boxerwood, a hillside near Ross Road is now home to scores of deciduous trees. Representing 12 different native species — oak, river birch, red maple, walnut, wild cherry, persimmon and more — the young trees settled into their new watershed protection role during a carefully orchestrated community tree planting event on Oct. 30.

The creation of the new riparian buffer — a land-use practice that protects stream health —was itself fruit of many collaborations. The trees came from Boxerwood, with help from Rockbridge 4-H and hundreds of children; the planting came from local families; the expertise came from Rockbridge Area Master Gardeners; and the residential guidance and funding came from Kendal.

According to organizers, the roots of the project go all the way back to 2018. That spring, fourth-graders at Waddell Elementary School as well as other local schools participated in a Boxerwood/4-H collaborative called “Growing Native.”

In this project, students first traveled to Boxerwood Nature Center to learn how native trees protect Virginia watersheds. In follow-up classroom visits by 4-H agent Megan Sheets, the students trained to become tree stewards. That spring, Boxerwood provided each student a native tree whip (bare root seedling) to plant in pots. The trees came from the Virginia Department of Forestry, with additional support from the Cacapon Institute. For the next two years, the children’s trees developed at nurseries at Boxerwood and near Waddell’s outdoor garden.

The native trees were always destined for youth-developed community service projects, but the pandemic complicated their planting. That’s where Kendal stepped in.

According to Kendal staff member Becky Edmondson, “each year Kendal Charitable Funds (KCF), an arm of Kendal Corporation, offers a grant to each Kendal affiliate to achieve some goal – loosely defined by KCF - but always involving interaction with the greater community. This year we applied for funding to plant additional trees along Woods Creek and other areas of the campus.”

With this new opportunity at hand, it didn’t take long for Kendal and Boxerwood to team up. A school-sponsored tree-planting was no longer possible during the pandemic, however, so Boxerwood had to find a new way forward: enter families and volunteers from Rockbridge Area Master Gardeners.

With help from Lexington city teachers and the Lylburn Downing Middle School PTA, Boxerwood reached out to many of those original PTA, Boxerwood reached out to many of those original “Growing Native” fourthgraders who were now at“Growing Native” fourthgraders who were now attending middle school remotely. The event became a family invitation (bring your grown-up), with planting taking place in family pods.

“To manage the project safely we had to limit the participation a bit, and employ sign-up shifts,” explained Boxerwood education director Elise Sheffield, “but it worked out great!”

Boxerwood also matched up each family when they arrived on site with an expert from the Rockbridge Area Master Gardeners.

“Families really appreciated learning more about how to plant trees successfully —something they’ll always know now — and the volunteers appreciated the opportunity to share their knowledge: it was a perfect match-up,” she explained.

Guided by Master Gardener Phyllis Fevrier, a traveling team of AmeriCorps volunteers —serendipitously in the area —later added protective cages around the young trees to thwart deer browsing.

By the end of that sunny October afternoon, 37 citizen stewards and one baby in a pram had planted 86 native trees in pre-flagged sites along the creek. Plans are underway to plant 14 more so the forest starts its new water protection role with 100 trees strong. The trees are planted along the route Waddell students walk on their way up to Boxerwood, said Sheffield.

She noted the riparian buffer will also serve as an inspiration for the next crop of fourth-graders since the Growing Native program is ongoing.

“Trees just keep giving and giving,” she said, noting the same for partnerships. Kendal’s Edmondson agrees.

Reflecting on the experience, Edmondson shared a note from Kendal CEO Jan Bigelow to the children and their families: “We are so happy to have this area planted ... to help keep runoff out of Woods Creek, to provide habitat for wildlife, and to help keep the air clean. The trees are small today but will grow big and strong quickly thanks to your work. Residents at Kendal and others who walk our trails will be able to enjoy the shade for many, many years to come! Thank you again for participating in this project. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to work with the folks from Boxerwood and YOU!”

“To manage the project safely we had to limit the participation a bit, and employ sign-up shifts,” explained Boxerwood education director Elise Sheffield, “but it worked out great!”

Boxerwood also matched up each family when they arrive on site with an expert from the Rockbridge Area Master Gardeners.

“Families really appreciated learning more about how to plant trees successfully —something they’ll always know now — and the volunteers appreciated the opportunity to share their knowledge: it was a perfect match-up,” she explained.

By the end of the sunny afternoon, 37 citizen stewards and one baby in a pram had planted 86 native trees in pre-flagged sites along the creek. Plans are underway to plant 14 more so the forest starts its new water protection role 100 trees strong. The trees are planted along the route Waddell students take on their way to Boxerwood, said Sheffield, noting the riparian buffer will also serve as an inspiration for the next crop of fourth-graders since the Growing Native program is ongoing.

“Trees just keep giving and giving,” she reflected, nothing the same for partnerships.

Kendal’s Edmondson agrees. Reflecting on the experience, shared with a note from Jan Bigelow, Kendal CEO, to the children and their families: “We are so happy to have this area planted . . . to help keep runoff out of Woods Creek, to provide habitat for wildlife, and to help keep the air clean. Can you imagine how beautiful it will be in a few years to walk along the trail creek in the shade of these lovely trees? They are small today but will grow big and strong quickly thanks to your work. Residents at Kendal and others who walk our trails will be able to enjoy the shade and woods for many, many years to come! Thank you again for participating in this project. We are so grateful to have to chance to work with the folks from Boxerwood and YOU!”

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