Volunteers Fix Flood Damaged Tree Plantings

2019 rainfall has continued last year’s torrid pace, culminating in a three and a half inch downpour in a few hours on June 20 th . On top of saturated ground, the perfect conditions for a flash flood. Valley Creek at the USGS gauge in Valley Forge Park rose from less than 4 feet to nearly 13 feet, 7 feet above flood stage. That flood water tore through our riparian tree plantings in Valley Creek and Cedar Hollow Preserves and we feared the worst.

It turned out that the trees held up pretty well – testament to the excellent planting and ongoing routine maintenance by Conservancy volunteers. Many trees were leaning or flat – see the photo of Valley Creek after the flood - but roots were mostly intact. However, it was definitely time for emergency response teams to resurrect the fallen and ensure their survival.

The smaller planting in Valley Creek Preserve was an easier task. Preserve Manager Ray Clarke checked just about all the trees; most are well out of their protective tubes and could be made vertical again with work on stakes and tubes.

The 750 trees planted in Cedar Hollow just two years ago were a larger challenge. Preserve Manager Tim Magee assembled a team with stalwart volunteers Bruce and Steve Shock, along with Ray Clarke (showing off their work in the photo taken by Preserve enthusiast Elizabeth Potter). They started at 7am and worked non- stop for five hours to beat the heat. A higher percentage of those trees were vertical, but about one in seven had not become established. About 100 tubes and stakes were removed (and taken to the OLC office for storage) and all surviving trees were returned to vertical – with a small number retrieved and replanted. Both areas are now in excellent shape, as shown in the photos. One remarkable observation is the proliferation of vegetation. Both these areas were previously a monoculture of the invasive Phragmites grass; now it seems there are enough wetland herbaceous species to warrant a new vegetation survey!

The Conservancy is grateful for all its volunteers, who do so much to sustain our precious open space and make it accessible for visitors to enjoy.