We have a lot of evidence showing how important forests are to human health and the human spirit. The opportunity to work with Stillmeadow Community Church bore witness to the connection between stewardship of the land and stewardship of people. - USDA Northern Research Station Director Cynthia West
The first anniversary of Stillmeadow PeacePark included a tree-planting event. USDA Forest Service photo by Rich Hallett.
MINNESOTA—Forest research is not typically part of community celebrations, making an event focused on a 10-acre forest owned by a church in the heart of the Beechfield and Irvington neighborhoods of southwest Baltimore, Maryland, truly unique.
On Saturday, Oct. 24, Northern Research Station Director Cynthia West was a featured speaker at a celebration organized by the Stillmeadow Community Church. Speakers included Stillmeadow Community Church Pastor Michael S. Martin, youth volunteers with the project, and research ecologist Nancy Sonti of the Northern Research Station’s Baltimore Field Station.
“We have a lot of evidence showing how important forests are to human health and the human spirit,” West said. “The opportunity to work with Stillmeadow Community Church came during a challenging time for our society in 2020. It brought people together from unlikely places to heal the land and our relationships with each other. This project bore witness to the connection between stewardship of the land and stewardship of people.”
Stillmeadow Community Fellowship Church is the owner of 10 acres of forest land and a stream known as the Stillmeadow Community PeacePark & Forest. The church and its forest are situated in the heart of the Beechfield and Irvington neighborhoods, communities that are predominantly African American and include many low-income households that have been historically underserved and are vulnerable to flooding and heatwaves intensified by climate change. Members of the church have been working with the Northern Research Station’s Baltimore Field Station as well as the National Forest System and State and Private Forestry for the past year to remove dead ash trees and invasive plants from the degraded forest fragment.
Following the removal of dead trees, scientists with the Baltimore Field Station are conducting an experiment at the site to identify a rehabilitation “prescription” to improve forest health. Scientists are using a variety of forestry practices to rehabilitate the forest, including phytotechnologies designed to help foster anthropogenic succession. Twelve different genotypes of fast-growing poplars and willows have been planted in five experimental plots throughout the forest. These trees will help mitigate site degradation while moving toward restoration of ecosystem services.
Researchers are also assessing the effectiveness of planting tree cuttings directly in the ground compared to potted saplings. Community members and student volunteers put in untold volunteer hours to clear the site and plant trees, working alongside scientists and learning together.
Photo: Pastor Michael S. Martin of Stillmeadow Community Church welcomed participants to the USDA/Stillmeadow first anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 23. USDA Forest Service photo by Rich Hallett
Friday, October 29, 2021
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