Last Saturday, the Civic Works’ Baltimore Orchard Project worked with The Chinquapin Run Park Orchard to coordinate a volunteer day with a group of 56 participants from the National Youth Summit on Agri-Science. When the students arrived, we gathered around a large Sycamore tree on the edge of the forest not far from the Orchard. Sylvester Myers, who takes care of the forest patch and is the Orchard Steward for the space, talked to the group about some of the work that he has been involved in to take care of the trees and manage the invasives in the area. The large sycamore tree we stood around was once covered in vines and now stood proudly in representation of all the work that has been done in collaboration with Baltimore Green Space, the Weed Warriors Program, and Baltimore Parks and Rec. We explained that there is still much more to do to ensure that there is a healthy forest and orchard ecosystem. The students then split into three groups to help with invasive removal, trash pick-up, and mulching the orchard.
Desiree Shelley, who runs the Tree Baltimore’s Weed Warriors program, came out to help lead a lesson on invasive removal. The students could pick cards, from a selection of native and invasive plant species, that detailed the strengths and weaknesses of each. When a plant benefited from one of its strengths they would step forward and when they were affected by one of their weaknesses they would step backwards. The students who were assigned to the invasive plants were soon far ahead of the students who were native plants. Then they all had the chance to remove some of the invasives, including english ivy, porcelain berry, mile-a-minute, multi-flora rose, and oriental bittersweet.
Many of the the volunteers approached picking up trash with just as much interest and commitment. In fact, we have never witnessed a more enthusiastic trash pickup and removal volunteer team. The students picked-up 18 bags of garbage from the orchard, trails, and surrounding forest totaling in over 700 gallons of trash removed. They even found some unique items including a piece of an old lawn mower.
A couple members of the group found some interesting natural items too, such as a perfectly intact fox skull, which is now part of Desiree’s nature education collection. A few other volunteers collected some old logs to create a marked path through the orchard.
At the end of the event we gathered together in a semi-circle around the large sycamore tree and did a rose, bud, thorn exercise with the group. Students and chaperones raised their hands to say something they enjoyed (roses), something that they didn’t like (thorns), or something they are looking forward to (buds). Many of the roses included finding a strange piece of trash. Others expressed thorns about how they were frustrated that they were unable to get all of the trash or finish mulching. In general, the group had many buds and expressed how they wanted to bring similar efforts back to their communities.
If you’d like to get involved in any Civic Works’ Baltimore Orchard Project events, keep an eye out for upcoming news about regular volunteer days with our Orchard Stewards posted on our meet-up page. If you have a larger volunteer group email Jenny Katz at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate a volunteer day with Baltimore Orchard Project or other Civic Works programs.