Your Forests Need Your Help

Your Forests Need Your Help

Reforestation Volunteer Opportunities Available

By Valerie Beerbower

Take a deep breath. Feel that delightful mix of oxygen and nitrogen filling your nostrils right now? It’s very important to life on this planet, and you’ve got trees to thank!

Forests play an important role in everyday life, not just here in the greater Dayton area, but across the planet. “There are many types of forest systems in different regions of the globe,” says Five Rivers MetroParks Conservation Manager, Mary Klunk. “World-wide, forests provide habitat for nearly two-thirds of the animals species living on Earth, plus forests help regulate climate through carbon exchange. It’s very important that we care for the forests we have left.”

Here in Montgomery County, forests contribute to the environment by helping to filter water, remove air pollution, prevent erosion and provide food and shelter for native plants and animals. Forests make up about two-thirds of the natural areas of the 15,500-plus acres of Five Rivers MetroParks. “About 40 percent of MetroParks’ forests can be classified as ‘mature’ forests,” Klunk says. “That means many of the trees have reached their full size, and there is a rich variety of native plants and animals. The rest of MetroParks’ woods are young forests that started growing since the ‘60s or later. These young forests will need many decades or even centuries to mature.”

For thousands of years, forests have covered much of Ohio. In fact, about 95 percent of the entire Miami Valley was covered in forests when settlers arrived in the early 1800s. The Miami Valley’s forests were once some of the most diverse and grand deciduous forests on earth. Tree trunks four or more feet in diameter held up spreading canopies of leaves and branches 120 feet above the ground. Smaller trees lived in the shade of the giants and formed a second layer of leaves called an understory. Living in the rich soil and decomposing leaves on the forest floor were hundreds of species of plants, as well as mushrooms, insects and small mammals. Today, that total is down to just 18 percent, making Five Rivers MetroParks’ conservation efforts extremely important.

Check out the diverse collection of forests waiting for you to discover in your MetroParks:

Germantown MetroPark: Park at the trailhead at 7501 Conservancy Rd.  From intersection 16, follow the orange trail about 2.5 miles to the Germantown Nature Center. The hike is rugged but you’ll see the largest and wildest tract of old forest in the Miami Valley (5-mile hike).

Englewood West Park: Enter the park at the entrance located at 100 E. National Rd. in Englewood. Follow the road down to the parking lot. Walk past Lawwill Shelter into the old woods. Stroll for the next 1,000 feet and admire the huge oak, beech and ash trees.

Dull Woods Conservation Area: This little 8-acre gem is one of the only remnants of the swampy forests that once covered northwest Montgomery County. Park at the entrance to the Wolf Creek Bikeway located on US 40 northwest of Brookville. Walk (or bike) a half mile southeast on the paved trail to the entrance to Dull Woods. A boardwalk there winds through the old woods and past a massive Shumard Oak.

Twin Creek MetroPark: Park at the small parking area at 10230 Eby Rd. Walk to beautiful Dogwood Pond and follow the orange trail below the pond down the valley to intersection 3 (0.6 miles). From there, turn right and walk another 1.1 miles to intersection 4. Return the way you came, and you will have had a workout in one of the most beautiful sections of forest around (3.4 mile hike).

Taylorsville MetroPark: Enter the park at 1200 Brown School Rd by the sledding hill. Drive the scenic winding road through a beautiful mature forest. Stop at one of the small parking areas and take some deep breaths.

Today, there are many threats to this region’s forests, but through proper maintenance and careful diligence these trees and their inhabitants will be around for generations. But in a world where wildlife and developed areas must co-exist, there is often an imbalance. “Overpopulating herbivores such as white-tailed deer threaten our forests’ sustainability,” says MetroParks Conservation Biologist Mike Enright. “If one species eats too many plants, it has a negative impact on the health of the forest. We must take responsibility for helping the forests to maintain healthy populations.”

You can help! There are endless volunteer opportunities available, including upcoming tree planting sessions on Seedling Saturdays, taking place from 9a.m. to noon March 10, 17, 24 and 31. Visit metroparks.org/forests and click on the “volunteer” tab for information about Seedling Saturdays and an easy sign-up form for volunteering.

You can also register for the annual county-wide park clean-up day, Adopt-A-Park. This year’s event takes place Saturday, April 21, from 9a.m. and concludes with a complimentary lunch at RiverScape MetroPark. Sign up by April 11 to receive a free T-shirt. For more information and to register, visit metroparks.org/adopt or call (937) 275-PARK (7275).

Reach DCP freelance writer Valerie Beerbower at ValerieBeerbower@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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