Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) has been awarded a $9,500 grant from the Growing Fund of the New Jersey Committee of the Garden Club of America (GCA).
The grant was sponsored by The Garden Club of Princeton (GCP), and will be used to fund the purchase and installation of native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants for FOPOS’ 18-acre forest restoration project at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, according to a statement provided by FOPOS. The project will transform this area from a mass of invasive species with an overstory consisting mostly of doomed ash trees, to a healthy native forest that will provide high-quality habitat for birds and animals, an enhanced experience for park users, and opportunities for educational programming.
The New Jersey Committee, which unanimously supported the grant, is comprised of all 12 GCA member clubs in New Jersey.
“Protecting, restoring and improving the environment is part of our core mission,” said GCP President Robin Gosnell in the statement. “In recent years, the national and local garden clubs have increasingly recognized the importance of controlling invasive species and planting native species to further that mission. FOPOS’ forest restoration project is a perfect fit with these objectives. We were very happy to be able to support it by sponsoring this grant proposal.”
GCP member Wendy Mager is the president of FOPOS, and said her conservation orientation is one of the reasons she joined GCP.
“Many people may not realize it, but the GCA clubs are quite a force for conservation. Shortly after joining the GCP, I attended the National and Legislative Affairs conference of GCA in Washington, D.C., and helped lobby our legislative delegation to support measures to protect and enhance the natural environment. I truly appreciate the fact that my fellow GCP members saw the merit of the forest restoration project and supported this grant application, and of course FOPOS is very grateful to the New Jersey Committee,” Mager said in the statement.
FOPOS received a $50,000 matching grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Stewardship Program in fall of 2017. The initial stages of the project involved building a deer exclosure fence around 8.5 of the 18 acres and clearing masses of invasive photinia, Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose, Japanese stilt grass and other non-native species from the site, according to the statement. The invasive plants do not support native birds and wildlife, and also choke out native wildflowers and tree seedlings.
The Growing Fund grant to FOPOS will supplement the funds received from Green Acres toward purchasing and planting 7,400 native trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Planting began in the spring of this year with volunteers from many different groups, but quickly had to be limited to sessions of 10 or fewer because of restrictions imposed to fight the COVID-19 epidemic. Large events including a Princeton Community Planting Day supported by the municipality had to be cancelled. Eventually, the workers were limited to FOPOS’ Natural Resources Manager, Anna Corichi, and a part-time former summer intern who is home from college, according to the statement.
Nevertheless, 2,000 plants – mostly bare-root trees and shrubs – have already been installed. Among the 2,000 new plants already installed are red chokeberry and hackberry; sweet birch, ironwood and five species of hickory trees; persimmon, flowering dogwood, spicebush, bladdernut and witch hazel; wild hydrangea, maple leaf viburnum, pinxter azalea and flowering St. John’s wort; sweetgum, black gum, hornbeam, pawpaw, ninebark, three kinds of oak trees and basswood.
FOPOS plans to move to the next stage of installing 400 larger, containerized plants this month.
“My fellow GCP members had signed up to help plant in March and April. Of course, it’s disappointing that these events had to be cancelled, but I know they will step up to help get the 5,000 herbaceous perennials in the ground next spring,” Mager said in the statement.
Founded in 1969, FOPOS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to acquiring open space in Princeton for preservation, protecting natural resources, maintaining accessibility to trails and providing environmental education. As part of their mission, they work with groups in the Princeton region to support efforts to preserve and protect open space and the environment. For more information, visit fopos.org. For those interested in volunteer opportunities, email email@example.com.