CHESTERFIELD, Mo.—The massive rainfall the St. Louis area experienced the last week of April had one positive effect; it made the ground easier for planting trees.
A group of 10 volunteers, including Missouri Master Naturalists, members of the Chesterfield Committee for the Environment, and staff from the City of Chesterfield planted 40 trees and 10 milkweed plants May 5 in Chesterfield’s Eberwein Park.
The day was pleasant, and the sky blue with plentiful sunshine. It was a distinct contrast from the seemingly unending rain of a few days before. Near Eberwein’s lake, where the planting took place, the ground was still soft and easy to work and the project was completed within a couple of hours.
The planting was part of a project to help restore native Missouri habitat to the park and was funded by Back to Nature, St. Louis Grant, administered by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
“Providing opportunities for communities to connect to nature is a priority for MDC,” said MDC Community Conservation Planner Josh Ward. “Restoring and creating these natural environments in urban/suburban areas is as much about connecting people with nature, as it is about improving urban wildlife habitat.”
The grant supports urban wildlife habitat improvement, encourages organizational partnerships for land stewardship, and supports the training of partner staff to manage natural landscapes. It specifically helps fund habitat restoration and/or reconstruction on public park property in St. Louis County or City. This grant opportunity is offered every-other-year for up to $50,000.
According to Geoff Wegrzyn, Chesterfield’s City Arborist, part of this particular project involves native reforestation of a three-acre area. “We planted 40 trees, a mixture of 10 species, including overcup and shumard oaks, and tulip poplars and black gum in wetter areas. We also planted 10 milkweed plants near the pond,” Wegrzyn said.
Before this native restoration project could be started, the area had to first be cleared of invasive bush honeysuckle. “The area between the dog park and the pond was completely dense with honeysuckle. You couldn’t see through it. It was 15-20 feet thick and six feet high,” Wegrzyn recalled.
Using funds from the Back to Nature Grant, the City of Chesterfield contracted Native Landscape Solutions to clear out the honeysuckle and open the area up. They also removed honeysuckle from a one-acre area in front of the pond to make way for wetland plantings.
“Now we have some variegated sedges, swamp milkweed and beauty berry around the pond for the butterflies and frogs,” Wegrzyn said.
Wegrzyn noted that the city has matched the MDC grant dollars one-for-one, doubling the work that could be done. Future plans call for additional native landscaping, developing a trail behind the pond, and installation of interpretive signage to help educate visitors.
“The Eberwein Park project is a great example of communities partnering with MDC to improve urban habitats for people and wildlife,” said Ward.
MDC is offering the Back to Nature St. Louis Grant again in 2017. For more information, contact MDC Community Conservation Planner Josh Ward at 314-301-1506, extension 4213, or Josh.Ward@mdc.mo.gov.