Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Walks and helping at Stadium Woods at Virginia Tech


                                     Cars are parked on the root systems of these old oaks-- a no no.
Woooo --- it wasn't half as cold as I thought it would be on Saturday, the day we had our first "cleanup" of the year at Stadium Woods. Stadium Woods is (there may be some grammatical debate on whether the verb should be "is" or "are", but with an expanse of wood/forest we Americans tend to use the verb "is") located behind Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium, and been the site of controversy and back and forth arguing and contesting of decisions concerning its future. After all, when you're talking about 300 to 400 year old oaks in the middle of town, a rare occurrence on the populated East coast, then maybe something should be done to help this woods thrive and survive.
     In the past the university has talked about cutting up this 14 acre forest to create an exercise facility for the football players. Considering the fact that there is actually a forestry major at Virginia Tech, you would think they would want to keep the woods intact, especially when studying all these white oaks, (which most of them are) and what ecosystem is unique to white oaks. But they didn't seem to care about this. So the "Friends of Stadium Woods" and the local Master Naturalists have had to be the advocate for the woods. Tsk, tsk.
     But a group of students came out on this sunny day to help pull up alien invasives like Privet, Japanese honeysuckle, English ivy, and Oriental bittersweet. These are plants that once they get foothold  in an area, they overrun the native plants and can kill them off and change the ecosystem. We had some students actually using shovels, like the two guys working under me, to totally, "totally" get rid of multi-flora rose. This woods already has a good share of brambles from black raspberries and wine berries, so the "sticker bushes" of multi-flora aren't too welcome. It is really an overgrown mess in some places, so we worked in our winter coats, hats and work gloves to pull out and pile up invasives taking over the woods for a few hours. 
     Even if it's not been decided by the university president at Virginia Tech whether or not  to fully keep this forest intact, we will continue to strive to clean up the invasives. There are trails locals and visitors can take, bringing them close to trees you need two to three people to reach all the way around. And that's big, let me tell you!

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