Project aims to restore indigenous plants to Pond Lily Nature Preserve in New Haven
NEW HAVEN >> His role in the assembly line may have been the messiest, but for Robert Guarino, he wouldn’t spend his day any other way than with his hands immersed in a big bucket of soil.
“I love planting and being outside,” Guarino, of East Haven, said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
Wednesday, Guarino was working in the Greenbrier Greenhouses in Edgerton Park, helping to move seedlings of Eupaturium Perfoliatum, or bonesets, to larger containers as they continue to grow. Eventually, they will be planted in the Pond Lily Nature Preserve.
This is all part of a project for Save the Sound that is focused on repopulating area watersheds with local plants — something that is vital for filtering pollution, restoring habitat, and bringing native plants back to the wetlands, said Anna Marshall who is overseeing the project for Save the Sound. Native plants are better adapted to the soil and environment and have naturally developed defenses to survive in the environment, Marshall said.
“It’s about reconnecting and improving the West River Watershed,” said Anna Marshall who is overseeing the project for Save the Sound. “It’s about getting people to understand and care about their environment.”
In the fall of 2015, the Pond Lily Dam was removed by Save the Sound and the river flow in the nature preserve restored. The plants being cultivated in the Greenbrier Greenhouses now will be making their way into the nature preserve and other local areas this fall, Marshall said.
When Marshall approached Scott Hickman, the president of G.R.O.W.E.R.S., about the project, he said he was really excited to be a part of it.
G.R.O.W.E.R.S. is a program for mentally or physically disabled adults that provides training, employment and therapy.
“This seemed like a great joint effort,” Hickman said.
Hickman said the G.R.O.W.E.R.S. are watching over the germination and growth of grasses, trees, shrubs, and some things that people may even consider weeds if they saw them.
“The guys have been having a great time watching over what’s going on,” he said. “The therapy that our guys get and the self satisfaction is hard to get anywhere else.”
The project actually began last spring and summer when seeds were harvested by members of the New England Wildflower Society from native plants in the Pond Lily Reserve. Those seeds were sorted and cleaned and then sent to a National Resources Conservation Service lab in New Jersey to be frozen and stored for the winter, Marshall said. When the seeds arrived back in Connecticut, they went to the Greenbrier’s Greenhouse to be planted and watched over by the G.R.O.W.E.R.S. program.
“The G.R.O.W.E.R.S. program took the seeds and really ran with them,” Marshall said. “Everyone was willing to try something new and see where it goes.”
Marshall said there will be a need for volunteers once the seedlings are planted in the nature preserve and other areas.
The seed collection portion of the project was funded through federal grants that were administered after Superstorm Sandy, Marshall said. The funding was given to help restore coastal wetlands with native plants, she said.