Travel Project at Valley Forge National Historical Park

This week we are writing from Valley Forge National Historical Park! The Branching Out team has all come together traveling from Boston, Massachusetts; New York City & Hyde Park, New York; and Washington, D.C. to assist the park with three resource stewardship projects which include horticultural maintenance at the park’s visitor center, rebuilding a worm fence, and rehabilitating a riparian buffer.

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Valley Forge National Historical Park is located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, about 35 minutes from downtown Philadelphia. Valley Forge was the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army. The park commemorates the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honors the ability of citizens to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times.

Working with technical experts from this park and experiencing the beautiful landscape that it has to offer has been amazing! Here’s a recap of the work we have been accomplishing at each of the project work sites:

Horticultural Maintenance at the Visitor Center By Jonah (Field Team Boston)

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The essence of a National Park is what you make of it. Some people find the power of our National Parks to lie within their beautiful landscapes, rich histories, or fascinating stories.

This week at Valley Forge National Historical Park my group and I looked to help these essential powers and elements prosper by rejuvenating and replenishing the garden at the entrance of the visitors center. What we did was rid the invasive plants, prune the native plants, and reconstruct the ivies running up the walls.

First, we identified each and every invasive plant that we deemed to be unnecessary to the garden. Then we pulled out these plants with soil knives and hand trowels and packed them in the back of a truck. We filled that truck four times!! Next we identified the native plants, made sure they were healthy, and pruned them with pruners if we needed to. We also transplanted a few plants within the garden because it was overcrowded. The next task, and also the task I was most concentrated on was to basically re-construct the entire positions of the virginia creeper ivy plants. When this garden was originally designed, it was thought that the virginia creeper would grow up the brick walls and achieve the intended appearance of the landscape design that the park intended. Unfortunately the virginia creeper never grew up the brick walls because the adhesive on the ivy doesn’t attach well to the brick. Brick makes up over 90% of the wall, and the mortar (which the ivy does attach to) is only covering a very small amount of the wall. Our goal was to get the ivy to go up the wall by screwing a clasp attached to the vine into the anchor. Using this technique, we attached over 25 long vines onto the wall, with the hope that they would be encouraged to grow up the wall through these attachments.

All these safe and useful techniques used in the garden were made possible through the education and assistance of Lee, Charlie, and Dierdra. All of these experts have us wonderful insight on how to complete the project.

It may not seem like our project made a huge impact on the park, but I think it did. Incorporating beauty into the garden that nearly every visitor of this park sees is vital to maintaining the esteemed and lovely image that so many people have of this amazing, beautiful park!!

Rebuilding Worm Fence by John (NYC Field Team)
The group I contributed in was at Washington Headquarters rebuilding the worm fence with my other field team members Andreas , Diego, Jonathan, and Liam.

 The goal of our project this week was rebuilding the worm fence in-kind, In-kind means to make it exactly how it was before by using the same materials. First we were introduced to our project by our technical expert Deb Baluta, who guided us throughout the whole project. Once Deb gave us the okay to start working, we got right to work! We started off by separating the timbers from the strong ones that can still be used to the ones that were broken and rotting. After that we began to place the timber to the rocks that were on the embedded into the ground that outlined the worm fence from bottom to top. We needed to gather along heavy timbers to stack first so it can be steady and sturdy to place so it won’t collapse and then place the light ones on the top. We needed a majority of either 5-6 timbers stacked ,so when the visitors that come and visit Washington headquarters at Valley forge National historic park can follow the guided route that was there before than cutting through the lawn and damage the turf and making their own little pathway. Overall my team completed the project efficient and on time. I would like to thank our technical expertise Deb Baluta for taking her time and teaching us how to rebuild the worm fence and the importance of it she was a great help and I hope she enjoyed our work . Thank you Valley forge for everything you guys done for us I had a excellent time and hope to work again with you guys soon 

 

Rehabilitating Riparian Buffer by Bukhari (Boston Field Team)

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Here at the Knox Estate, we’ve worked hard to preserve and maintain this ecological marvel. Our team worked on removing an invasive species of grass known as stilt grass from what is known as a riparian buffer. This term describes a natural barrier of vegetation between a body of water and runoff rain water that may cause harm to it. The water that travels downhill towards the stream can be warmer than the water in the Stream and may also contain pollutants. The water in the Stream must stay at a cool temperature in order to make the water habitable for macro invertebrates such as crayfish dragonfly and other invertebrates but also to keep it oxygen rich for the native trout species. This project allowed the ecosystem of the park to benefit from a species the biome is used to. With the area that has been left bare, we replaced the stilt grass with seeds of local plants. These local plants add more beneficial resources to the fauna who are used to native organisms. Not only that, the stilt grass from before had shallow roots that work poorly as a buffer between the creek we worked near and runoff. The native plants of the buffer are longer rooted, which helps more in the absorb runoff and pollution.

Along with the grass, we also worked on cutting tree limbs off of a tree that had caused the NPS staff trouble. The tree had many dead branches that were in the way of getting to an invasive species that needed to be removed. With our help, the NPS have full access to under the tree for future projects.

It was hard work to work in the sun, avoid poison ivy, and not mistakenly pull native plants. However, the ability to work out of Boston and be able to experience a brand new ecosystem maked the hard work worth it.

Branching Out will be back in New York, Massachusetts, and D.C. next week so stay tuned for more updates about our next projects!

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