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Dear Decaturish – Dearborn Park Nature Alliance wants to hear from you

Decatur Editor's Pick Metro ATL

Dear Decaturish – Dearborn Park Nature Alliance wants to hear from you

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Dear Decaturish,

I have lived in Midway Woods for almost seven years. During that time, I have become increasingly aware of the value of the mature trees in our parks and creekside woodlands. Unfortunately, I have also become aware of the deterioration of our woods due to the proliferation of invasive plants that are strangling invaluable native species. I have worked intensively to preserve the trees in my own back yard, which slopes down to one of the branches of Shoal Creek. I have learned that some of my trees are hundreds of years old and that vegetation on the site indicates that my trees are remnants of an old-growth forest. I have removed ivy, privet, liriope, nandina, and an especially pernicious invasive, the Japanese chaff flower. I never thought it possible, but I now believe I am on my way to creating a space where most of the plants are native.

Though insignificant in size, the woodland I have nurtured has revealed to me what a healthy native forest looks like and the extent to which the surrounding woodlands are not healthy. Compare recent same-day photos of my healthy woods with those across the creek:

Image provided to Decaturish

The natural areas of Dearborn Park, like the picture on the right, are badly degraded, as are the woods at Legacy Park.

It would be wonderful if not just a pocket here and there but all the extraordinary woodland areas along Shoal Creek could be brought back to health. We know what trees can do to combat climate change, especially mature woodland trees that are part of rich, complex ecosystems.The tangle of invasives choking our woods is undermining the potential of our mature native trees to help mitigate global warming, as well as nurturing wildlife by providing the food local creatures need.

As development threatens green spaces in Decatur, and as climate change threatens our way of life, calls go out for planting trees. Perhaps we should first be sure we are preserving our existing trees and their habitats. In long-established woods, mature trees live in a symbiotic relationship with each other, in soil that has been enriched over centuries by decaying vegetable matter. The seedlings spring up a setting that is a naturally appropriate setting for them.  But they can’t thrive if aggressive invasive plants take up their water, nutrients, and sunlight.

Can you help? I know that many residents of Decatur and the surrounding areas care about our green spaces and strongly favor their protection. A group of us from the area around Dearborn Park have formed the Dearborn Park Nature Alliance.  We would like to hear from anyone who is interested in rescuing local woods from deterioration.

For more information about Dearborn Park Nature Alliance, contact:

Sarah Zingorelli  sarahzingorelli@yahoo.com, 404-373-7266

Martha Miller  mlmiller@uncc.edu , 404-377-0088

– Martha Miller

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