Sourland Conservancy moves forward with the Foraging Forest restoration project

The planting of native plants in Hopewell Borough Park will begin this month as part of a restoration project by the Sourland Conservancy.

Native plants are to be planted in the new Foraging Forest in the park and will have more than 300 plants on display.

The Foraging Forest is a native plant restoration project that began as an idea in the Spring 2018. The project is funded by a grant from the Simcha Rudolph Charitable Trust in partnership with the Sourland Conservancy, Mercer County Park Commission and D&R Greenway, according to officials.

“Simcha Rudolph was a local resident who was passionate about the environment and restoring the health of the ecosystem in the region. Ms. Rudolph put some money into a trust to be used for those purposes,” said Carolyn Klaube, stewardship program coordinator at the Sourland Conservancy.

For three days in October, the Sourland Conservancy is looking to have 50 volunteers each day to help plant the native plants. However, officials said they would want as many people as they can get to help on Oct. 16 and Oct. 18-19.

“We decided that we wanted to do something that really involved the community. This is not just a restoration project but an educational and engagement project,” Klaube said. “This is a way to bring people together. This site at Hopewell Borough Park fits our needs. It is a place that is easily accessible for people and an inclusive area.”

Half of the native plants going into the Foraging Forest will be planted this month, with more growth to be planted next spring and fall, according to Klaube.

The Foraging Forest restoration project is being done in stages. The first stage of restoration was to remove the invasive plant species on the site.

From there, the second stage, was to install a deer exclusion fence around the Foraging Forest to protect the plants from the deer grazing. The third stage, was to prepare the site for planting, which included planting a cover crop and laying wood chips down for pathways throughout the Foraging Forest, according to officials.

After the planting of the native plants, the final stage will be to maintain them by regular removal of invasive plants until the native plants become established.

For the Sourland Conservancy, volunteers are the keystone of this effort and the organization,.

“We really need [volunteers] to help get the work done. We have a staff of two full-time and three part-time here at the conservancy,” Klaube said. “Volunteers coming out to do this planting will also be taught about the plants going into the ground and their importance. A lot of these plants are just really beautiful and hopefully this will encourage others to plant native plants on their property.”

For more information about the planting and Foraging Forest, visit www.sourland.org.