Dark Moon Preserve Native Grass Planting and Invasive Species Removal
In June 2010 RVC planted the remainder of the farm fields at its Dark Moon Preserve in Green Township with warm season Native American grasses. This brings the total area converted from former corn and pumpkin fields to native prairie grass to 30 acres.
The grasses appear to be taking well. Ironically the long, hot summer of 2010 was favorable to these warm-season grass species. RVC also cleared 6 acres of invasive autumn olive, a non-native species imported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a windbreak and wildlife shelter. Landowners are likely familiar with how quickly this shrub spreads; it has taken over many fallow farm fields in New Jersey. Through a Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) grant provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service out of Hackettstown RVC was able to hire Tuff Greens of Denville, NJ, to bring in an imposing machine called a forestry mower (below right).
The mower turned 6 acres of tall, tough autumn olive to mulch! The cleared area will be planted in native grasses next season. Native grasses are wildlife friendly, beneficial to water quality, and sequester carbon in the soil.
RVC has retained the services of Dr. Karina Schafer of Rutgers University in Newark to measure background carbon levels in soils at the Preserve. This research is being funded through a grant from Conservation Resources Inc. of Chester and Elizabethtown Gas Company. Ongoing monitoring will be conducted to determine to what degree the grasses trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and therefore how beneficial these grasses may be to addressing global climate change.
Eagle Scout, Michael Caristi of Blairstown, is helping RVC install a horse-friendly trail through the preserve. The current trailhead is horse trailer friendly.
Hemlock Ridge Trail in Place
In March 2010, the first two sections of the Emil McConnell Trail have been marked at RVC’s Hemlock Ridge Preserve in Blairstown. The trail accesses the deep limestone forest on the 145-acre site. Hikers can experience a very diverse, mature deciduous forest characteristic of the Appalachian Valley and Ridge Region, and come across limestone sinkholes and former limestone quarries on the site.
The trail is accessible from Frog Pond Road. Users need to look for the Green Acres sign and RVC’s slate trail markers (below right). The next stage of the trail will be to construct a trailhead parking area and extend the trail to the limestone bluffs on the property that give great views of the Paulins Kill Valley.
Because RVC owns the property hikers are welcome to explore the entire property. We will be announcing another stewardship day when we hope to have our members volunteer again to mark more trail miles.