-by Arianne Hemlein
You may have seen us in the median of Reedy Creek parking area at Umstead State Park in all kinds of weather, wearing sun hats and sturdy work gloves, scrambling up and down the steep slopes, carting buckets of river rocks, planting, and weeding. You may have wondered who we are, why we are out there, and what we are trying to accomplish. Let’s see if I can answer these questions for you…
Who are we?
We are volunteers for and members of the Umstead Coalition, a group dedicated to protecting and preserving Umstead State Park for future generations. If this sounds like a worthwhile cause, you too can get involved. Volunteer for work days, become a member of the group, or donate to the cause.
Why are we out there?
With the help of volunteers and the financial support of donors and partner organizations, we created “Forested Rain Gardens” in the medians where once only patches of grass and weeds grew. According to the Coalition, “This project provides several environmental and user benefits, including: reduced runoff volume and intensity of storm water runoff due to the infiltration into special soil media we will install in the medians. The trees and shrubs will provide much needed shade in the hot, steamy parking lot. The shade will reduce the thermal impact to the downgradiant streams.”
You can find more information about this project and several other initiatives on the Umstead Coalition website. When you visit in years to come, you may park under the shade of trees rather than in the bright glare of the sun, and you will delight in observing Monarch butterflies flitting among the native NC plants in our raised butterfly gardens. If you lend a few hours of your time - or bring a group of coworkers to assist during regular business hours as a community volunteer project - you will feel pride in your achievement every time you visit and have the satisfaction of knowing you gave back to the park you love.
What we are doing?
Currently, we are maintaining and modifying the Forested Rain Gardens in the medians of the parking area. Some of the rocks that were delivered to us for use on the slopes of our gardens are round like potatoes, which tend to roll downhill instead of staying put on our slopes. So they must go. We spent the last several workdays replacing round river rock on the landscaped slopes with more stable, larger flat rocks.
What to do with these lovely rocks that are not suitable for our landscaping purposes? It just so happens that these rocks are perfect for painting. We are offering an opportunity for you to create a work of art with family and friends at Umstead Visitor Center on Saturday, October 13 and November 10, from 2-4pm. Supplies and instruction will be provided by Sociable Art. All ages and artistic abilities are welcome and encouraged. Sample designs will be available. Get more information here.