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Committee Looks To Re-Establish Grasslands ‘Demonstration Plots’

Chuck Martin, a member of the Trails Advisory Committee, describes the demonstration plot program to the Environmental Commission on May 16.

The Trails Advisory Committee wants to know more about the township’s native grasslands and is looking to the Open Space Advisory Committee for help.

The Trails Committee wants to re-establish 10 “demonstration plots” at the Negri Nepote Grasslands Preservation site off Skillmans Lane. The plots were first created in 2013, but have fallen into disrepair.

Trails wants to fix that, and is looking for up to $2,000 from the Open Space committee to help with the effort.

Tara Kenyon, the township’s open space consultant, was expected to make the ask at Open Space’s May 17 meeting.

Kenyon described the plan at the May 16 Environmental Commission meeting.

The money, she said, would be used to create signage and to buy mulch and borders for the roughly 4- to 5-foot diameter plots.

She said that one or two of the plots should be done by mid-June, with the rest hopefully completed by the end of September.

“If we don’t make it by September, we’ll have to wait for next Spring, for the planting season,” she said.

Kenyon, Trails Advisory Committee member Chuck Martin and township resident John Loos have already started weeding several of the plots to prepare them for their new life, Kenyon said.

The demonstration plots can be used for a variety of purposes, Kenyon said.

“They may want to see how many Monarch butterflies we can attract if we plant milkweed,” she said.

She said the plots can also be used to see how different invasive grasses and plants fare under different conditions.

Kenyon said one of the plots could be left bare, to ask as a control, to see which invasive species take root.

“We could, on a very small patch, test, does this work, does that work, then we could show our results to the public,” she said. “If we fail, we can say, oh, this did not work, our hypothesis was wrong.”

“The biggest thing is the stewardship of it, the volunteerism, because once that kind of dies off, everything stops working,” she said. “So we have been trying to contact the Master Gardeners. A Boy Scout troop reached out to me and said they’d be interested in doing it.”

“So we’re going to keep reaching out to these groups to see if they’d want to adopt one of these plots, because that’s the first question we have to answer, who’s going to take care of these plots,” Kenyon said.

“I think if we can get this going, I think it will be not only education for the public, it will be educational for us,” she said. “There will be this really great trail that we can add in.”

Martin is spearheading the effort. He said the results of the demonstration plot experiments could have wide-ranging effects.

“I think it will help inform us as to what we have to do to restore the 88 acres of grassland that we have at Negri Nepote and perhaps also at Griggstown, which is probably going to require some different methods,” he said. “But it will be helpful to us in studying the problem.”

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