Fifty trees that will take root in Hunsberger Woods represent not only greenery, but celebration of a partnership between the Borough of Collegeville and the Ursinus College Environmental Studies program.
A group of dedicated students under the direction of Associate Professor Richard Wallace had the rare opportunity to develop a stewardship plan for Hunsberger Woods in collaboration with the Borough of Collegeville. As a result, the statewide TreeVitalize program has granted the joint Collegeville-Ursinus partnership $3,170 for trees in Hunsberger Woods, the 27-acre wooded natural area that the College jointly owns with the Borough of Collegeville. The tract boasts running trails, open space, and a creek.
The planting was Sunday, April 15.
TreeVitalize is a public-private partnership to help restore tree cover, educate citizens about planting trees as an act of caring for our environment, and as a response to a loss of trees in Pennsylvania’s metropolitan areas. The grant and partnership came out of an Ursinus College Environmental Studies capstone seminar (Adaptive Conservation and the Land Ethic) in which the students worked with the Borough on a stewardship plan, also consulting with the National Lands Trust.
The students found the process rewarding. Senior Rebecca Walter called it “an incredible experience.” An Environmental Studies major, Walter says, “it has made all of the difference actually putting what we have learned these past four years into actions, and especially on a property so diverse and so close to campus. I feel like my last four years at Ursinus and my Environmental Studies major have culminated in the creation of this stewardship project, integrating all of the knowledge gained into our work on Hunsberger Woods.”
She hopes to transform Hunsberger “into a place where the community and students can really experience and explore the great outdoors, as well as learn from the environment, for generations to come.”
Wallace, who has a background in natural resource management, believes that Hunsberger has potential as a community teaching area. He anticipates that the students will, by the summer, have a management plan which will take a comprehensive view of the future of Hunsberger Woods as a high-profile destination, managed for natural value. The plan may include an active educational program with student volunteers, detailed signage on tree species, and ideally, an environmental teaching house and internships.
Eight students from the fall seminar are continuing the work this semester as the Hunsberger Woods Stewardship Planning Working Group to see the plan through to completion. When the Hunsberger tract was purchased in 2005, the tract was split between the Borough, which owns the protected area, and the College, which owns the more developed area. On Sunday, volunteers will plant trees throughout the protected area. Selected for size, longevity, and appropriateness to existing wildlife, they include species of Red Maple, Eastern Red Cedar, Eastern Hemlock, White oak, and Nannyberry.
Senior Tom Jablonowski is excited about the project. “This is, without a doubt, one of the most engaging projects I have had the opportunity to work on during my time at Ursinus,” he says. “The research, drafting, and implementation work that has gone into the creation of the stewardship plan has helped me develop a wide variety of professional skills. It has also allowed me to develop a more personal appreciation for natural areas and their conservation.
“What makes this experience even more rewarding is knowing that the work my classmates and I have done will produce enduring, real-world changes,” he said. “. . . The results of the past year’s work will serve to actively benefit both natural/biological and social communities, and demonstrate the functional presence of a ‘land ethic’ beyond the pages of literature.”