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By Kathleen Ward, Conservation Coordinator
So much of my work as D&L’s Conservation Coordinator has me at my desk attending Zoom meetings with partners, administering grants or filing reports. Yes, it’s important work – but when I got a call from Chris Strohler, Senior Conservation Planner, of Wildlands Conservancy asking me if I wanted to help out with a planting for a Lehigh Valley Greenways mini grant project in Whitehall, I instantly leaped at the chance to get my hands dirty.
In 2019, Lehigh Valley Greenways (a public-private partnership managed by D&L with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) awarded Whitehall Township a mini grant to install a picnic table, benches, a bicycle repair station, and interpretive signage at the Mickley Road Trailhead along the Jordan Creek Greenway. The grant also funded planting native trees and shrubs. Wildlands Conservancy, a lead partner on the project, was heading up the activities. Their expertise in trails and streamside plantings made them a natural fit to work with Whitehall Township on the mini grant.
On the day of the planting, three volunteers from the Penn State Master Watershed Steward program joined me at the streamside site. Together with Kate Ebel, Senior Environmental Scientist for Wildlands, we planted several dozen native plant plugs while Chris prepped the ground for new trees to be planted on another day. All the while, fishermen visited the banks of the Jordan Creek, runners and dogwalkers enjoyed the trail and plenty of birds eyed up the newly dug-up ground for the fresh worms we unearthed. It was a great day in the field.
Two weeks later, we gathered again at the site, this time with about 20 more people and the press. We were there to celebrate a new round of mini grants, $75,000 distributed to 14 new projects throughout Lehigh and Northampton Counties. One of those projects will help restore trails, one will create a rain garden, and another will start the first phase of an arboretum, to name only a few.
All of the projects help create a greener, healthier, happier Lehigh Valley. Some of the projects are along the D&L Trail which is the spine of THE LINK Trail Network in the Lehigh Valley, some of the projects will link to the D&L Trail in the future.
On those days that I feel I’m “tied to my desk,” I will look back on days like the one I spent in Whitehall and remember the larger significance that the projects make to land and residents. And if I need a reminder, I know that any of the many partners I work with are happy to get me into the field!
If you feel “tied to your desk” and want to get out and help, I hope you will consider volunteering with D&L – there are many opportunities! And if you want to learn more about Lehigh Valley Greenways’ past mini grant projects and success stories, visit: https://lvgreenways.org/mini-grants/