Maryland Outdoor Club
Sat, Apr 3 2004 - Tree Planting in Cranesville Swamp (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Jesse Allen
Participants:Jesse Allen, Rebecca Hill, Jeff La Noue

Write Up:

In the day or two prior to this event, we got a good deal of light continuous cold rain, which caused a good many of our original volunteers to cancel their plans to participate. They missed a very good event with quite good tree planting weather.

We met bright and early (appallingly early! 6:30 AM!) at the carpool location at MD 32 and I-70. Since there was just the three of us, we all piled in together to Jesse's car after tossing shovels and impliments of destruction into the trunk, and headed off through the light rain towards western Maryland. We stopped in Hancock to pick up some much desired hot coffee and where Jesse and Jeff were both quite amazed and surprised by the high tech lunch ordering system at the Sheetz station. Imagine a totally computerized ordering system for your sub! Neither of us had ever seen such a thing before.

Not long after leaving Hancock, the rain cleared and we could start to see the hills in the low lying clouds... and the hilltops were all white! For the past two days, what fell as rain for us was snow in western Maryland. It was somewhat surreal to go from cherry blossoms and daffodils and all the signs of spring to a return to winter in April! By the time we got to Cranesville Swamp Preserve, there was a thick fog that blocked our view for much more than 50 feet ahead. But with Rebecca's excellent navigational directions, we found The Nature Conservancy's site without mishap and right on time.

At the site, we met Deborah Barber, the director of land management and volunter programs Deborah Landau, the conservation ecologist, and other staff from The Nature Conservancy who would work with us through the day. There were also about 15-18 other volunteers from various other locations and groups, the most substantial being a contingient from the Sierra Club and Tri-Beta sorority at Frostburg University.

Debra L. introduced us all to each other and explained the equipment and site setting. Cranesville Swamp Preserve, she explained, is a watershed area for Muddy Creek and Swallowtail Falls (see where we visited on the Hiking and Hot Tubs weekend among other occasions MOC has been in this area) and thus into Deep Creek Lake and the Youghiogheny River. The area was originally heavily forested in species usually associated with Canada: this area of Maryland and West Virginia is located in a 'frost bowl' where the factors of jet stream, the shape of the land, and the altitude combine to create a cooler climate that the surrounding areas. With two inches of snow on the ground in April, this was quite easy to believe!

The area used to have forests with large stands of red spruce, but logging in the early 20th century removed many of these trees, and a substantial forest fire in that era burned out seedlings and the natural 'duff' ground cover that helps protect new seedlings in the first years as they get established. Much of the land was then converted to farming and what areas grew back as forest had a very different mix of species. The Nature Conservancy is trying work on re-establishing a mix of trees and ground cover more analogous to that which was present prior to logging.

To that end, the previous day they had harvested about 2200 (!) red spruce saplings from wild stock growing along a gas pipeline in the Monongahela National Forest nearby in Canaan Valley (where we went cross country skiing just a month before). These small little volunteer trees would have been mowed down to keep the pipeline right of way clear of trees. The fact the trees were local to the area means their genetic root stock should be very similar to those which used to

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