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Notes from the trail:
Morgan Willett

Many Hands Make Light Work

It’s interesting how some information, random facts, or stories get stuck in our heads, while others don’t. For example, while walking the Managed Meadow section of the trail with Kendall Topping, Community Forestry Specialist from the Department of Forestry, I learned about Mimosa trees, a very invasive plant that can quickly grow out of control and outcompete other plants.

After learning this, these trees seemed to be everywhere! The pretty flowers these trees produce are really just a clever defense mechanism. Just as Wisteria trees are invasive plants, their beautiful draping flowers make them highly attractive. Or, those honeysuckles with that sweet scent that takes me back to grade school, also an invasive plant. However attractive these plants might be, the Elizabeth River Trail is not their home.


In truth, I know exactly why this information gets stuck in my head. Over the years I have become more and more fond of plant care and how plants impact our environment. It has become a real pleasure to share what I am learning with the many wonderful volunteers that support the ERT. What is even more exciting is the dedicated team of people we are gathering who want to care for plants on the Trail. The ERT Green Team will kick off this August!

The idea behind the Green Team was also a product of our stroll with Kendall which we did to determine the best place for potential fruit tree plantings. We will be applying for a grant through the Department of Forestry that will enable us to create a Fruit Forest at the Fitness Course, by Plum Point Park. However, Kendall pointed out that many of the trees at the Fitness Course are dying because they are not getting enough water and didn’t have the proper trunk guard protection in place when they were planted. We are grateful for the expert advice we were given on how to be successful moving forward. Hence, the need for a dedicated team of volunteers! While the initial focus of this team is on watering the trees, our hope is that it will become our core group of beautification volunteers.

With any planting project on the trail, our goal is to not only support and care for our environment but also enhance the trail experience for everyone. It’s much more enjoyable to walk or ride along a shaded path, have a picnic, stop for a break, or meet up with friends in a cool shaded area than in direct sunlight. The trick is to make sure that what we plant will support a diverse, resilient, and sustainable environment that will be enjoyed for years to come. This is why planting native plants is so important. As well as being careful about what is being planted and where. Drought-tolerant plants wouldn’t do well in soil that is constantly wet. Trees that need tons of water just won’t do well in elevated areas that stay dry.

Creating the kind of trail that supports diverse and healthy plant life takes a lot of effort. It sometimes means removing plants that are technically native but may outcompete more beneficial plants or are not well-suited to certain areas. Creating a beautiful trail that has something for everyone takes everyone’s help. Many hands make light work!

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Interested in joining the ERT Green Team? Email for more information or fill out our Green Team interest form. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities on the trail. Learn more on our volunteer page.


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