By Thomas Celona
Ambler, PA (October 29, 2009)- The borough recently received two grants that will pay for efforts to restore the natural habitat of Borough Park, and community volunteers will take the first steps toward revitalizing the park Saturday.
The borough received a one-year $15,975 grant from TreeVitalize and a three-year $59,650 grant from Merck & Co. Inc. The grant money will be used to fund efforts to widen the riparian buffer that exists along the banks of the Rose Valley Creek in Borough Park.
A riparian buffer is an area of vegetation near a stream that helps protect the water from nearby land usage. The riparian buffer, which is currently 5 feet, will be widened to 10 feet.
Increasing the riparian buffer will help to “improve water quality by filtering pollution out before it reaches the creek, improve flood management by slowing down runoff and improve wildlife habitat,” according to a press release.
Doubling the size of the riparian buffer will have a major benefit for storm-water management, according to Susan Curry, chairwoman of both the Ambler Environmental Advisory Committee and Ambler Tree Tenders. “It slows down rain water and storm-water runoff,” she said. “The trees absorb some of that water and transpire it out into the air. The slowing down of this storm-water runoff helps prevent erosion along the banks.”
At its July 7 committee meeting, Ambler Borough Council voted to apply for the TreeVitalize grant, which will be matched by $2,700 from the borough and by several other donations from individuals. By receiving the grant from Merck, Borough Park becomes one of six environmental projects funded by the company in compliance with a fine issued by the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Merck allowed for a spill of toxic (material) to happen in the Wissahickon Creek about three years ago, and because of that, they were fined by the DEP,” Curry said. As a result of the June 2006 discharge of pollutants into the creek, Merck must now fund six supplementary environmental projects in the area, according to Curry.
While the work at Borough Park will take over a year to complete, community volunteers will soon begin to make an impact. On Saturday, the Ambler Environmental Advisory Council and Ambler Tree Tenders will organize a volunteer effort to remove certain plants to clear space for future tree planting.
Volunteers from various community organizations will remove invasive plants, shrubs, trees and vines, which compete with native species for natural elements and can prevent natural species from surviving, according to a press release. “Native species provide a great deal more food and habitat for birds and other wild creatures than the invasive species, so they are preferred,” Curry said in a press release.
The volunteers will focus their efforts on the 3.5 acres downstream of the creek, using saws and clippers to remove vegetation. Large trees will be removed during the winter by the borough’s public works department and other tree professionals, according to a press release. The Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association has tagged native trees in the park to ensure they are not removed, Curry said.
Once the area has been cleared, planting to widen the riparian barrier is scheduled to begin in the spring. Another community volunteer day is scheduled for April 10, 2010, when volunteers will plant 300 native trees and shrubs, according to a press release. The planting portion of the effort is projected to be completed in October 2010 with the planting of another 200 trees, Curry said. All work is being overseen by landscape architect Nancy Minich, according to a press release.
Aside from the environmental benefits, the project will also bring aesthetic enhancements to Borough Park, Curry said. There are plans for a rain garden, a wildflower meadow, mowed pathways, park benches and a trail on the east side of the park, she said. “This will really expand the area that residents can enjoy,” Minich said in a press release. Curry said she plans to hold a focus group in January to receive residents’ input on the future design of the park, and a Friends of Borough Park group will form to guide the park’s development.
Borough Park was established in 1937 and is an 8.6-acre public park, which the Rose Valley Creek runs through, located near the intersection of Hendricks Street and Edgewood Drive.
Times Herald- Grants to be used for park revitalization