D&H Rail Trail Swale Project Completed

Edited from Submitted Materials

Participants in the D&H Rail Trail Swale Project included (seated, from left) Courtney Leaidicker, Rae Hayden, Jamie Owen, and Reeve Owen, (standing) Susan Wheeler, Sandy Harris, Anson Hedges, Lori Voll-Wallace, and Stephen Bott.

A group of dedicated volunteers, along with Penn State Extension educators from the Master Gardener Program and Master Watershed program, Rail Trail Council of NEPA, Susquehanna County Conservation District, and DCNR, have created a rest area around a natural swale on the D&H Rail Trail, near Ararat Road.

These efforts help enhance the natural beauty and the wildlife habitat along a portion of this popular trail system. This project also helps mitigate climate change and aid in erosion control along the Starrucca Creek, Susquehanna River, and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. The swale project included the incorporation of a custom-made bench by members of the welding program at the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center.

It was a day of learning and volunteerism. Participants not only planted native trees, grasses, shrubs, and perennials. Throughout the day, learning breaks were provided, targeting habitat enhancement, native and invasive plants, beaver management, rail trail history, local train history, climate change, watersheds, and tree identification. Adults and high school students as far away as Olyphant participated, as well as members from the Susquehanna County Forest Landowners Association. “This was so much fun! I am so glad I came. I especially loved how education was woven into the workday,” one volunteer remarked. In a follow-up survey, 100% said that they would help with similar projects, and 100% would implement what they learned on their own properties.

We are not only created something to preserve and conserve the environment, but provided a service to humans and animals alike, by educating the community on the importance of soil and water conservation, enlightening our audience on how native plants thrive in the habitat by providing shelter, food sources, erosion control, and improve water quality for animals and humans.” Penn State Master Gardener Area Coordinator Lori Voll-Wallace said.  “Furthermore, we are helping to indirectly enhance the economic growth of the communities surrounding the D&H Rail Trail and in part, helping to enhance the whole Rail Trail system across Pennsylvania.”

Interested readers can contact the Rail Trail Council of NEPA office in Union Dale to rent a backpack with binoculars, and wildlife, wildflower, and tree ID pocket guides by calling 570-679-9300 or logging on to neparailtrailcouncil@gmail.com.

The Montrose Area Adult School and Rail Trail Council have hiking and biking trips planned over the summer. Contact www.montroseareaadultschool.org for details and future trips.

The D&H Rail Trail Swale project was funded by the Department of Environmental Protection EE 2022 grant. Training for project team leaders was conducted by the Penn State Extension Energy, Business and Community Vitality Team. Wildlife advice was given by the Game Commission animal control agent. The Susquehanna County Commissioners were thanked for their support of Penn State Extension staff, which spearheaded this community project.

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