Volunteers reforest James Farm Preserve in Ocean View

This fall, volunteers from the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CIB), the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Coastal Gardeners Club planted trees as part of an effort to improve wildlife habitat at the James Farm Ecological Preserve.

According to the CIB, between 1992 to 2012, the Inland Bays watershed lost 14 square miles of forests, and that vital habitat for wildlife has been largely replaced with developments — a change that also adds to roads and rooftops that contribute to stormwater runoff.

The loss of forests also affects populations of wildlife that rely on them for nesting, feeding and breeding, including amphibians, turtles, wild turkeys, and native songbirds!

“This project is particularly important for species that rely on lush, interior forest habitat (unfragmented forest area surrounded by more forest) like the Eastern towhee, yellow breasted chat and American redstart,” said Victoria Spice, CIB restoration project manager. “It is our hope that this project will enable the preserve to better support the creatures that we all love to see and hear when out in nature.”

Nearly two dozen volunteers worked together to dig holes, move compost, mulch and plant 15-foot native hardwood trees to extend and improve the preserve’s forest in what was once a pasture. In addition to diversifying the existing forest, the fuller canopy will also serve as a shaded picnic area for visitors to enjoy the preserve.

The improvement project is part of Phase I of the James Farm Master Plan, a project expected to be completed by the spring of 2019. Created in 2014, the plan includes several phases of updates designed to help accommodate the growing needs of the preserve, while protecting its natural resources and enhancing educational opportunities.

Right now, the CIB is working to raise funds for the second phase, including repair and realignment of the trail system, construction new educational facilities and improvements to storage areas.

Funding for the planting project was provided by the Delaware Forest Service Urban & Community Forestry Program, whose goal is to enhance and promote the proper stewardship of Delaware’s urban forest resources.

For information about the James Farm Master Plan and how to get involved, visit www.inlandbays.org/JamesFarm.