By now, everyone knows that Heuser Park suffered an attack by an invasive Asian beetle, the Emerald Ash Borer. The township fought back in the only feasible way: a multi-phase counter-attack! Here’s a brief synopsis:
Phase 1 was the spraying of invasive plants. Knowing that the invasive plants and seeds in the soil would soon have full sun and ideal growing conditions, a certified pesticide applicator preemptively sprayed herbicide in September 2017, as recommended by the PA Bureau of Forestry.
Phase 2 took place during Summer/Fall 2018. Every ash tree was cut down, along with any mature invasive trees (such as tree of heaven and princess tree). A logger was employed to cut and sell any lumber-worthy wood, which helped to defray the cost. We thank residents for respecting the trail closure signs during the dangerous logging process.
The final result of Phase 2 is admittedly “not pretty.” Such a drastic change in the landscape can be shocking to see, and it’s happening all over the eastern United States. But the change has more than a visual, aesthetic consequence. Without the tree canopy to prevent rainfall from battering the ground beneath, the soil would be in jeopardy of being washed into the Trout Creek and Schuylkill River, especially along the slopes. Following the advice of the Montgomery County Conservation District (the agency that enforces the Clean Water Act), the logging company left branches and some logs on the land to slow down the runoff. These remaining tree parts will stay in place to protect the soil, and will eventually decompose to nourish the soil.
In Phase 3, over 2,300 small trees and shrubs were planted on the hillside and floodplain of Trout Creek to protect the soil from erosion as quickly as possible. These plants were placed in between the laying branches and logs, and will have every opportunity to grow quickly and replace the forest canopy. Among the many important functions of trees in a forest, each tree intercepts 67% of the raindrops that hit its leaves and branches, so that much of the water never reaches the ground.
What does the future hold? We are expecting to continue the forest restoration by planting another 1,600 trees by the end of 2019. The area will require periodic repeat treatment of invasive plant growth until the trees grow enough to shade out the undesirable invasives. Meanwhile, your Parks and Recreation Board and Board of Supervisors are working toward a master plan for the park. Stay tuned! It will take some time, but things will get better!
Information provided by the Upper Merion Shade Tree and Beautification Commission.