Volunteers Go to Great Lengths For Whaleback

Volunteers who were sure-footed, strong-backed, cooperative and experienced in transplanting native species came out eager to protect the bluff at Whaleback Natural Area in early October, 2005. The beautiful trees surrounding the observation deck were at risk because of use of the bluff as an access down to the beach. Our goal was to stop foot traffic by removing the trail and add a few positive touches.

Here are some steps to follow, if you were unable to join us but are curious about how to stop erosion on your own property. Finding the cause of erosion can sometimes take detective work, but in our case, the trails around both sides of Whaleback’s observation deck were an obvious indicator of the cause.

Our amazing crew of volunteers embarked on some biotechnical erosion control, meaning we used the long-term stabilizing power of native trees, downed branches and trees. First, our mighty crew dragged large downed trees from a dispersed area within Whaleback. Using a system of ropes, pulleys and people power, we placed many trees to build 3 terraces on the steep slope and anchored them in place. Members of the Wildflower Rescue Team helped the goldenrod, cedar, dogwood, pine and hemlock transplants by installing a coconut fiber blanket across the upper part of the slope to hold the soil close to their roots. The coconut fiber biodegrades in 5-8 years making a great low maintenance mulch blanket. We gathered leaves, needles and downed brush, piling it densely over the anchored trees and trail to create a moist environment for our transplants to take root. Try this easy step to stop erosion on your own property but don’t skimp, it will decompose quickly.

Many thanks to the volunteers who came out to help, learn new skills, and share their talents. There will be lots of projects coming up where we will need the various abilities of our community members to help us create healthy landscapes in our Natural Areas. Restoration can be a great way to get outdoors and be a part of a community-building event too. When the Volunteer Stewardship Network next meets, may it be outside!

Photo: Stewardship Director Jenee Rowe (top right) and Gina Erb (left, green shirt) ease down Whaleback’s steep slope with the aid of ropes. They are laying a biodegradgeable coconut mat which will hold transplanted vegetation in place. Other volunteers further down the slope place logs across the trail to stem erosion.

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