‘Leaf’-ing a legacy

Dayton’s reforestation efforts

By Amy Forsthoefel


Photo:Volunteers Mike Stanton, Mike Shade, Patrick Kennedy and Marga Huban proudly pose after planting 200 native shrubs at Germantown MetroPark in December 2012

Five Rivers MetroParks’ groundbreaking reforestation efforts demonstrate the constructive powers of people when they take an active role in conservation.

The reforestation program started in 2010 as a way to combat the destructive effects of the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle whose burrowing larvae kills all species of native ash trees.

“The most destructive phase of this infestation has passed,” said Conservation Director Dave Nolin. “Many trees were preserved through inoculation (particularly rare ash species like the pumpkin ash growing at Englewood MetroPark), but we lost thousands of ash trees. Some in heavily wooded areas fell to the beetle and more than 800 trees in and around public-facing areas were removed before they became a hazard.”

To date, about 82,600 trees have been planted. Although emerald ash borer destruction was a major impetus, Nolin said reforestation efforts include boosting diversity and eliminating gaps between sections of habitat.

“All kinds of native animals rely on a variety of plants for food or shelter,” Nolin said. “By increasing the types of trees and shrubs in our forests, we increase the viability of the habitat, inviting an abundance of native wildlife.” Phase 1 of this ambitious plan is targeting 970 acres for reforestation. So far, 232 acres – about 24 percent – is complete. “Our cover mapping data suggests we will need 4,400 acres – about 28 percent of all acreage MetroParks manages – reforested,” he said.

Highlights from 2012’s reforestation efforts include:

70,000 native trees and shrubs were planted, 14,000 of these were planted by volunteers, restocking 224 acres of land with native plants.

Despite a record drought in the summer of 2012, 71 percent of the seedlings survived in volunteer plantings. Contractor planted trees from the Shepard’s Run Reforestation project (Medlar Conservation Area) had a survival rate of 69 percent.

14,000 native trees and shrubs were propagated at Cox Arboretum by Meredith Cobb and volunteers.

200 gallons of viable seeds – approximately 88,000 seeds – were collected by volunteers through the “Go Nuts for MetroParks” contest.

94 percent of the trees inoculated in 2011 were in good-to-excellent health last year.

More than 40 3- to-5-year-olds collected about 3,500 viable oak and hickory seeds through the Tikes Taking Action program.

“We hit a lot of high notes and we learned a lot of valuable lessons about the art of raising a forest,” Nolin said. “But you make mistakes when you’re blazing new trails.” Five Rivers MetroParks is one of the only public park systems in the country with such an expansive volunteer force that has been able to replenish its forests with such a high success rate. “We’re sharing everything we’ve learned with our colleagues throughout the state and the rest of the country so other communities can help preserve and protect their forests.”

Unfortunately, emerald ash borer likely won’t be the last invasive species threat to Miami Valley forests. Asian long-horned beetles have been spotted in Ohio, and this bug’s appetite is even more of a menace than the ash borer.

“Like emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle larvae feed on the tissue under a tree’s bark,” Nolin said. “But long-horned beetle diet includes 24 types of hardwood trees, such as oaks, Kentucky coffee trees and tulip trees.”

The forward march of globalization is unlikely to fade in the future, which means new threats of insects, bacteria, fungi and other shake-ups in nature are always looming. But with diligence and perseverance, people can contribute to the health of forests. “Biodiversity is important,” Nolin said. “We learned that lesson the hard way when the emerald ash borer took out a good chunk of the canopy in some of these second-growth forests where fast-growing ash quickly took over former farmland.”

Get Involved

Families and individuals looking to pitch in to help with reforestation efforts have a variety of volunteer projects to choose from. Visit metroparks.org/forests and click on the “volunteer” tab for details and to sign up for alerts about upcoming opportunities. This chart gives a comprehensive overview, ranging from least time-intense to projects that require hours of dedicated service.

Visit metroparks.org/forests to learn more about reforestation efforts, including a volunteer sign-up sheet and upcoming forest-related programming, as well as info about the emerald ash borer. For more info on the Asian long-horned beetle, visit asianlonghornedbeetle.com. 


Reach DCP freelance writer Amy Forsthoefel at AmyForsthoefel@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Tree Planting Plant seeds or little seedlings at specific dates and times, like Seedling Saturdays, or help prep sites for planting.
Tree Monitoring Trees need water during the summer – especially in drought conditions – and someone to keep an eye on the locations. This volunteer job is great for someone who regularly visits a MetroPark that has been reforested.
Forest Foster Family Volunteers take flats of seedlings home with them and care for them over an extended period of time. Flats are provided with detailed instructions and cages to keep out critters. Just add water!
Seed Propagation Seeds need to be prepped and planted in tubes to prepare for the next Forest Foster Family dispatching.
Invasive Species Management Volunteers are needed to maintain healthy habitat by controlling invasive plant and animal species, which consume resources and crowd out native species.
Master Silviculturist Silviculture is the “art of creating a forest.” Volunteers undergo intense training to learn all about creating and protecting the forest. These master-level volunteers go on to lead smaller groups of volunteers in reforestation efforts.

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