Thanks to many hands working together, the Children of Indiana Nature Park is now 3,000 trees richer! That’s because May 19 was Kids to Parks Day at Cope Environmental Center, and we celebrated by planting 3,000 native hardwood trees in the old hay field!
Kids started the day gathered in Cope’s visitor center for a morning bird walk. Afterward, there was a presentation for the Children of Indiana Nature Park and a tutorial on nature journaling. Attendees headed outdoors for several bio-blitz activities exploring insects, wetlands, and reptiles.
After searching for critters and having a few snacks, everyone joined The Nature Conservancy’s Chad Bladow and volunteers for the tree planting! Kids learned how to use the special tree-planting tools, and also learned the importance of using a variety of native tree species, kids helped plant row after row of pawpaw, red oak, and buckeye trees.
Prior to the Kids to Parks Day, much work had been done to remove the non-native, invasive honeysuckle from around the perimeter of the field. Some of the honeysuckle still remains, but great progress has been made, and Nature Conservancy and Cope staff and volunteers will continue working to restore the area.
Honeysuckle was once planted because it’s beautiful and smells good. It was thought that it would help with erosion control and create habitat and food areas for wildlife. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. Honeysuckle grows quickly and aggressively and their dense thickets block sunlight and prevent anything from growing underneath. Some species of honeysuckle can even release toxic chemicals into the soil that hinders the growth of other plant species. This overwhelms the native plants, which are crowded out. This has a negative impact on native wildlife. While birds will eat the honeysuckle, the berries contain very little nutritional value, as compared to what native plants provide.
The newly planted native hardwood trees will restore the area close to what it was before it was a field. The trees will provide habitat and food for wildlife such as squirrels and birds. Other animals that prefer a forested canopy, such as rabbits and songbirds, will make it their home.
Below are some photos from the exciting day:
Chad helps River plant a tree.
Kids get their Nature IN-Deeds at the Cope visitor center.
Kids learn about critters before going to their bio-blitzes.
Lots of tree planting!
Trying to catch frogs!
Searching for insects.
Exploring the wetlands.