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Volunteer help sought for planting trees

Gravel Springs Farm owners Emma and Paul Sorenson are pictured with volunteers during the last volunteer tree planting day at their farm in the fall.
Gravel Springs Farm owners Emma and Paul Sorenson are pictured with volunteers during the last volunteer tree planting day at their farm in the fall. (Submitted photo, Carroll County Times)

Earth Day may be Tuesday, but Gravel Springs Farm in Union Bridge is hoping area residents will still want to celebrate on April 26 by helping to plant 1,200 trees on some conservation area at the farm.

This is the second volunteer-based tree planting at the farm since the fall, with the trees and event coordination being provided by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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Paul Sorenson, owner of Gravel Springs Farm, said he learned about the opportunity through Ron Schnable, a restoration scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, whom he met through the Maryland Grazers Network and Future Harvest, a Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.

Currently the farm grows organic vegetables and has free-range chickens for egg production, but the Sorensons are planning to add grass-fed beef cattle and pastured pigs to the farm. Sorenson said he joined the two organizations looking for guidance on how to improve his pastures so the animals could graze off the land, receiving harvested feed only as a supplement instead of their main food.

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Schnable and a mentor farmer from Frederick County visited Gravel Springs Farm and suggested that Sorenson retire some of the poor-growing pasture lands on his farm into conservation land planted with trees, particularly since some of these areas were a wetlands.

"It seemed like a good fit for us because we had this marginal land that was not great crop land, and it's also a critical waterway area," Sorenson said.

Gravel Springs Farm has natural springs that are the headwaters of Roop's Branch, which leads to Little Pipe Creek, then the Monocacy River, into the Potomac River, and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, said Carmera Thomas, CBF coordinator for the tree planting event.

"Carroll County is really a hot spot for us right now because it is in the Upper Potomac watershed and there are a lot of [dairy] farms," Thomas said.

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Cattle farms are of particular interest because if they have access to streams, they tend to cause more erosion of the stream banks, allowing escaped nutrients from the soil and fertilizer to pollute the water, Thomas said, as well as the cows' manure, which is also full of nutrients. Excessive nutrients in the bay can lead to too much algae, which can negatively impact fish and other aquatic life.

Adding trees near streams reduces erosion, and the shade can also keep the streams cooler, providing better habitat for the wildlife within them.

"A lot of the streams on the farms in Carroll County and Frederick County are trout streams that require colder temperatures for the spawning of the fish, and [planting trees] just really improves all the tributaries of the watershed there," she said.

CBF and volunteers helped plant about 800 trees on Gravel Springs Farm in the fall, and will plant an additional 1,200 April 26. Sorenson said he planted an additional 800 trees through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The total acreage of new trees on his farm is about 15 acres, he said.

"Part of our goal here is to be sustainable and use as many of our resources wisely on our farm as we possibly can," Sorenson said. "Water [quality] is one of those important issues."

Thomas said CBF is hoping to get 100 to 150 volunteers for the tree planting, which will take place rain or shine from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 26.

A limited number of shovels will be provided, so volunteers are encouraged to bring their own shovels and gloves (which you may want to label with your name to make them easy to identify when the event is over). Water will be provided, but participants are asked to bring their own water bottles. Some refreshments will be provided, but participants are welcome to bring their own food as well.

Volunteers are asked to register by visiting

http://www.cbf.org/calendar

or contacting Thomas at

cthomas@cbf.org

or 443-482-2156.

Easter egg hunt

The New Windsor Lions Club is hosting its annual Easter egg hunt at noon Saturday at New Windsor Middle School, 1000 Green Valley Road, New Windsor.

There will be three age groups: 5 and younger, 6 to 8, and 9 to 12.

The Easter Bunny will be there to hand out chocolate Easter bunnies to participants and parents can take pictures of their children with the Easter Bunny using their own cameras.

In case of rain, the egg hunt will be cancelled and not rescheduled.

The event is free.

Spring cleaning

Whether you can help out with a group project or just pitch in with the street and sidewalk in front of your house, the town of New Windsor is hoping to see widespread participation in its third annual Community Cleanup Day April 26.

In the past, projects have included the junior fire company repainting fire hydrants and Lions club members cleaning up the town's parks, said Mayor Neal Roop.

This year, a focus is going to be adding some mulch and new flowers around the town's war memorial on High Street and the town park on Main Street, he said. The city is also looking for volunteers to paint the curbs at storm drains to remind residents that the water eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay and that it is important not to pollute that water.

Cleanup activities will take place from 9 a.m. to noon. Students in need of service-learning hours are encouraged to participate, Roop said.

"It's not a whole day thing so if somebody can come out for an hour or two, that would be great," Roop said. "If nothing else, clean up in front of your house -- just beautify New Windsor a little bit."

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