The High School Park Meadow Restoration
Cheltenham Township has received the Phase 2 DCNR grant for the park entrances, meadow edge and woodland: The grant is $200,000 - $100,000 local, non-cash and $100,000 grant monies. It is a 3 year project.
It has been granted to continue park development and restoration efforts transitioning from the native meadow into the adjacent woodland edge. It involves removing invasive plants and reintroducing Junipers, other shrubs and perennial native plants.
It also addresses removal of the man made berms that were built during the school demolition at the top of the original stairway entrance and the introduction of storm water best management practices i.e. building rain gardens in their place, and extending the underground waterlines on the south side of the park to the back of the meadow so we can keep all these new plants alive!
It follows what the community felt are their needs in the 10 Year Ecological Management Plan to improve the pedestrian and ADA accessibility and connect-ability with new landscaped entrance way treatments from Montgomery Avenue and the 2 lower High School Road entrances.
We are responsible for 650 volunteer hours which entails planting in September 2014 with the contractor and then without the contractor in 2015. It also entails working with a professional to monitor what we plant and document the planting response to heat, drought and erosion.
Year 1 - basically the bid specs will be designed by WellsAppel and the Request for Proposals will go out
Year 2 - the contract will be awarded to a landscaping company and start of invasive removal and planting
Year 3 - final planting and monitoring what survives drought and erosion
Volunteers are needed to make this successful. We have pledged 650 hours for the project. Will you lend a hand?
What is happening with the meadow restoration
The Meadow Getting its Edge – adapted from an article for the Fall 2012 FHSP Newsletter
Another major phase of the meadow project will be underway next week. Almost 300 shrubs and almost 100 small trees, such as shadbush (Amelanchier arborea), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia), will be planted around the edge of the meadow. These plantings play a crucial role, linking the wooded areas to the meadow grasses, making it an especially rich habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife.
The perimeter pathway will now meander so that one walks primarily through the meadow grasses and occasionally through the edge area of shrubs and trees. Enhanced plantings of grasses and wildflowers will lend greater interest along the path running across the meadow and at other focal points around its perimeter. Thousands of plugs of Pennsylvania sedge, golden sundrops, wild sweet-William (meadow phlox), golden Alexanders, gloriosa daisy, silky wild rye, beard-tongue, and purple love grass are being planted.
Since the meadow has been reseeded it is making good progress, though this progress can be difficult to see. While many native grasses and flowers have sprouted, so have unwanted invasive ones, including mugwort and foxtail grass. It will take three years before the desirable plants become firmly established and we are certain that the meadow has taken hold. Some of the seeds need to overwinter before they will germinate. For the remainder of this year, the meadow will be kept short, no higher than 14 to 18 inches, in order to prevent the fast-growing non-native grasses from shading out the slower-growing native ones. Low mowing also limits seed formation by these unwanted species. The Friends will monitor the meadow over the next three years. Volunteers will help hand remove some of the unwanted plants such as mugwort.
The Friends have been working closely with the project's landscape firm, Wells Appel, and the contractor, All Seasons, as well as Township staff, to coordinate this project. Restoration Manager Diana Weiner has done an outstanding job overseeing the effort, from plant confirmation, to layout, to installation and care at all phases of the project.
Many Friends have volunteered to make the meadow restoration a reality. We especially thank Ellen Donovan and Stuart Appel who have been weeding the Meadow Demonstration Garden. This area, accessible by the paved path and adorned with two comfortable benches, showcases many of the plants that will be found in the Meadow. We also thank Carole Maher, Gail Korosoff, Cynthia Blackwood and Martha Mowry who supervised the Arcadia students in late August. These hard-working students removed lots of English ivy and other invasive plants from the edge, making room for this latest phase of the plantings.
Since we initiated this project and asked Cheltenham Township to seek funding for it, we have made it a primary focus of our work in the Park. We hope the demonstration garden - and the meadow itself - inspire people to plant native meadow grasses and flowers in their home landscapes.
In 2007 the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) funded the planning grant to develop High School Park (HSP) and Ogontz Park. This fostered broad community input and support and resulted in our 10 Year Ecological Management Plan. It is based on a foundation of solid ecological and land use planning provided by an ecologist and biologist.
In 2010 the DCNR awarded a second grant of $125,000 with matching services from Cheltenham Township and Friends of High School Park to restore the meadow and edge ecosystem on 2.5 acres of the 11.49 acres of open space and passive recreation that is High School Park (HSP).
Since 1995, Friends of High School Park has continued to reclaim, enhance and restore what was once the built environment of Cheltenham High School to a natural setting with native plants and vegetation to benefit wildlife habitat and for human enjoyment. Over 1,000 volunteer community service hours have been pledged for this new meadow project.
The property is centrally located and is an anchor of the community. It is the connection point to travel to and from the train station, small businesses, schools, synagogues and the library in a well established neighborhood consisting of walk-able connecting sidewalks dating from the 1930’s and 40’s. It is used by public and private schools, scouts and individuals for outdoor education and recreation.
HSP encompasses three distinct environmental zones and ecosystems within its boundaries: meadow, woodland and riparian buffer.
3 PRIMARY OUTCOMES FOR THE THREE YEAR PROJECT
Meadow Restoration – Establish and maintain an early successional meadow landscape dominated by native warm-season grasses and wildflowers to connect people with nature
Edge Restoration - Establish and maintain a wide transition area between the wooded and open areas consisting of a variety of vegetative layers of native trees, shrubs and perennials. to enhance the meadow walk experience.
Demonstration Meadow Garden – Renovate the Fulton Garden to allow visitors to sit on benches, enjoy a butterfly garden and glean more information from the educational and interpretive signage explaining the benefits of a native meadow and edge ecosystem.
OUR GOAL IS TO ENCOURAGE A GREATER CONNECTION BETWEEN PEOPLE AND NATURE BY
Maintaining and enhancing the landscape – continue to eliminate invasive plants and maintain new plantings (HSP was the winner of the 2004 Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s (PHS) Suburban Greening Award and the 2011 PHS Community Greening Award for its Backyard Natives Garden.)
Connecting people with nature - HSP is one of the few natural pockets in the township where people routinely walk. Enhancing the meadow will invite people to casually walk through and have a greater appreciation of native plants in different habitats with the aid of explanatory project signs.
Managing storm water run-off - by narrowing the 30 foot wide paths down to @10 feet and increasing the tall meadow area to capture storm water
Conserving energy - by using less fossil fuel by mowing narrower paths. Sequestering more carbon dioxide by planting additional woody plants around the meadow edge to help keep the area cooler in the summer.
Integrating green design - that will encourage residents to incorporate native plants. Our project does not involve construction to reduce storm water erosion.