Last week we were incredibly fortunate to partner with Expedia for their annual Day of Caring. We knew that a group of 100 tech savvy volunteers presented us with a unique opportunity, and it was the perfect chance to test out our new geographic information system (GIS) maps and integrated technology, and monitor the impact of the recent holly removal project.
Back in March, a crew from the Urban Forestry Restoration project, administered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), found over 200 invasive English Holly trees growing throughout North Creek Forest.
With the location of the treated holly mapped, it made sense to use these maps, which interface with a free mobile app, to relocate and assess the plants in a geocaching-style treasure hunt, but the challenge of accessing all the holly in a timely manner, and collecting all the data we were interested in, felt daunting.
Enter Expedia. As we were preparing the management plan for the the holly control project, we learned that Expedia was looking for projects for groups of about 100 volunteers in September. A technology based project for a tech company felt like a good fit, and Expedia was excited to help support forest health in this unique way.
Volunteers from our Research Committee and Board helped everyone get signed in (no small feat with 100 people!), oriented, and trained on how to download and use the GIS app, how to identify English Holly and classify crown health and new growth.
Then we divided everyone up into small groups and they headed out to find their plants and collect the data. Many groups returned after completing their first cluster ready for more, and we completed all of the data collection in under three hours!
After lunch, the group wanted to keep working and agreed to help move a truckload of mulch up a steep trail to an area in the middle of the forest where we have been removing invasive blackberries. This mulch will help retain water and soil and slow the return of the blackberries. A bucket brigade made us more efficient, but there was no getting around the fact that hauling 20 yards of mulch up a steep slope is a labor intensive job, and we all celebrated as the 'final bucket' made it's way up the hill.
We were thrilled to be able to host the Expedia volunteers for their Day of Caring and so appreciate everyone's hard work and incredible can-do attitude. Both projects needed a large group, and will have a significant positive impact on North Creek Forest. Thank you, Expedia, for your service, and many thanks to all the FNCF Board and Committee members who made this event possible. We will post some maps showing the results of what we learned as soon as we have had the opportunity to evaluate the data.
Our next public work party is this Saturday, September 16, from 10am-1pm. We will be spreading the mulch hauled last week (among other things) and would love to see you there! Visit our Volunteer Park for more info.