The Forest Regeneration Corps is a group of volunteers that maintain and enhance the fauna and infrastructure of the 14-acre Wildflower and Forest Preserve. Public groups generally meet the third Sunday of each month, 9:30 to 12:00, April through November at the front of the Dog Park. (put 10 Bear Lane, South Orange into your GPS). Adults and children 12+ are welcome (adult supervision is required for children below age 15). Dates for community groups can also be arranged.
Led by artist and SMC Board member Tricia Zimic since 2008, and now assisted by Tanya Prescott, the Preserve is an enclave of special beauty in the reservation. Help plant native species (we install hundreds each spring!), remove invasive species, and clear and line trails. Whether an individual, family, or community group, join us in maintaining this special place. See the SMC MeetUp Events Calendar for specific information on the public Forest Regeneration work days, or contact Tricia Zimic, or Tanya Prescott, or leave a message at 844-SOMOCON (844-766-6266).
In addition to its role in forest restoration, the Preserve serves as a destination to educate and engage people of all ages. With a simple trail system, signs explaining the woodland, vernal pond, and meadow ecosystems, information on various trees and shrubs, and artwork from the Wildflower Sculpture Park, it is a special destination in the park.
Over the past decade, hundreds of volunteers, individuals and community, corporate, and environmental groups, have contributed thousands of hours to maintain the Preserve. Some have also helped maintain other regeneration sites as part of our Adopt-a-Site program for ongoing maintenance. Others groups have done initial work on the IRIS Program (Identification and Removal of Invasive Species).
Background and History
The Preserve was created as part of a twenty-year, $950,000 forest regeneration program launched in 2008 by the Conservancy and Essex County. This program consists of 42 regeneration sites covering just over one million square feet in the Reservation. The underlying logic is that these sites serve as a seed source for native plants in the reservation. By removing invasive species, planting trees, shrubs, and flowers, building interpretive trails in the Preserve, and (to a lesser extent) helping maintain the other, smaller sites, the Forest Regeneration Corps is a key part of this monumental effort.
Gaining support for the Preserve and its creation took several years. The idea for a deer exclosure, where there once had been a deer enclosure or paddock, was off-handedly suggested in 2005 by Troy Ettel to conservancy chair, Dennis Percher. Ettel, at the time NJ Audubon’s Conservation Director, was leading a group along Crest Drive to compare the understory growth inside and outside of a fenced pumping area. The comparison was stark — where the vegetation was exposed to the browsing of the over-abundant white-tailed deer population, it was minimal; in the fenced-in area, it was abundant.
Given the clear need for an area protected from deer, Percher informally presented Ettel’s suggestion to the county and publicly advocated for it at the dedication of the dog park at the end of July 2006. Tricia Zimic was in the audience and afterward she told Percher that she was interested in helping establish and restore the exclosure. A year later, County Executive Joe DiVincenzo became interested in the Preserve and the idea of distributed forest regeneration sites now being championed by Zimic and Percher. The county executive sought to position the program as a complement to the deer management program he was launching to accelerate forest restoration. (The original idea for distributed sites that would be a seed source for the reservation came from Emile Devito, PhD., manager of science and stewardship at the NJ Conservation Federation.)
After the county repaired the perimeter fence of the Preserve near the dog park in February 2008, the first Forest Regeneration program began in April. Besides clearing the meadow and removing extensive interior fencing (once used to separate the deer), the Conservancy was able to start installing plants funded through a 2007 DEP Trails Grant. (In 2009, thousands more plants were added professionally to the Preserve as part of the larger forest regeneration project funded through the New Jersey Green Acres program and the County’s Open Space Fund.)
The Forest Regeneration Corps has been active since that brisk April morning supported by the dedicated effort of Tricia Zimic and hundreds of volunteers.
For more information, see:
Why forest regeneration is needed in SMR?
SMR Forest Regeneration Site Evaluation Report, Fall 2014