by Courtney Finneran
Even in the midst of the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 turned out to be a successful and dynamic year for the West Chester Tree Team and the Living Landscapes Committee. Our community chose to prioritize spending time outside, gardening in the soil, and educating themselves on the benefits of native planting. Below is a recap of some of the highlights. Stay tuned next month to learn about some exciting things that our committee has planned for 2022, including several native planting volunteer events at Goose Creek and Chestnut Street Garage. If you are interested in supporting our group, please email WCTreeTeam@gmail.com and let us know!
Street Tree Plantings in 2021
Over the spring 2021 and fall 2021 planting seasons, the West Chester Borough Arborist planted a total of 190 new trees in street right-of-ways and parks across town. We are still counting on our Tree Team volunteers (that’s you!) to keep an eye on our street tree canopy in your travels across town. Remember that in the Borough, a permit is required for any tree work performed on street trees as well as use of a preapproved landscape firm.
Goose Creek Invasive Removal Project (April 2021)
WCGT partnered with the Tree Commission in organizing a volunteer invasive removal and native planting project. On April 17, 2021, approximately 20 volunteers showed up to remove invasive vegetation from a 200-ft length of the banks of Goose Creek near Greenfield Park. Once the area was cleared, volunteers laid down a thick layer of wood chips provided by the Public Works Dept. Invasive species removed include: Multiflora Rose, Porcelain Berry, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, Knotweed and more.
Following the removal, local Borough residents Linda Glaum and Woody Lathbury have continued to care for the project area by showing up regularly to continue to remove invasive species, and planted native perennials and grasses alongside the native riparian trees planted by the Borough Arborist. Native plantings donated by the Glaums include Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a PawPaw, Virginia Willow (Itea virginica), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), and false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides),
This project was led by the West Chester Green Team in partnership with the Public Works Department, the Borough Arborist, and the Borough Tree Commission.
Lawn to Native Pollinator Garden Conversion (May 2021)
In May 2021, members of the West Chester Transition Team’s Living Landscapes Committee created a publicly accessible native pollinator garden located in the 500 block of South Maryland Ave in West Chester Borough to showcase an affordable DIY project to convert a monoculture lawn into a gorgeous and ecologically beneficial native pollinator garden.
Accessible from the sidewalk, the new 200-square-foot native pollinator garden provides nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and food for caterpillars. Native plants have evolved to act as hosts to our native insects and therefore provide a highly valuable resource that cannot be provided by non-natives.
Green Man Garden Tour (June 2021)
In June of 2021, the WCGT developed a self-guided walking tour of 10 home gardens across the Borough. The tour included a scavenger hunt where each of the home participants hid a green man/woman in the landscape of the garden area. The WCGT website contained all the details including the sample walking route. The tour focused mostly on showcasing native gardens including lawn conversions across various scales, including some established, some new, and some in process. This may be an annual tradition, so reach out if you are interested in supporting this effort in 2022!
Chestnut Street Hellstrip Garden (September 12, 2021)
The WCGT Living Landscapes committee organized a native planting project for the “hellstrip” along East Chestnut Street at the Chester County History Center. This strip of dirt between the curb and sidewalk now includes a 7 ft long x 3.5 ft wide strip of native plants — all donated by WCGT members — including “shorter” perennials, grasses, and cover.
E. Prescott Alley / Chestnut St Garage Garden (October, 2021)
The West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) reached out to the WCGT to help beautify one alleyway in downtown West Chester in an effort to achieve an important goal in the BID’s five-year plan. Members of BID and WCGT together recognized the urgent need to install a native pollinator garden which would provide an educational component with informational signage, an ecological oasis providing habitat for pollinators, and a beautiful landscape component of the urban environment. Phase 1 efforts completed in 2021 included planning and design, and a volunteer-led work day where approximately 20 individuals removed the original mature invasive shrubs, installed a new garden path, planted several redbud trees and 12 native shrubs. In Spring 2022, volunteers will be asked to help plant over 2,000 perennial plugs to help complete the project. This new garden is located at the base of the Chestnut St Garage (on the East Prescott Alley side) and serves as a highly visible entrance point for visitors to the West Chester Borough business district.