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Master gardeners, McDaniel team up on Westminster wetlands project

Posted by Don West on April 6, 2012 at 8:35 PM

By Caroline HaileyTimes Staff Writer 

Every week for the last two months, McDaniel College students have been teaming up with Carroll County master gardeners and neighbors near Westminster’s King Park to help transform an eyesore in the park into a thriving wetland.

Coming to the site, located near Kings Drive and Chase Street, every week has been a great way to take what he’s been learning in this environmental problem solving class and put it to use, said Drew Garrison, a junior at the college.

“It’s fine to read about this, but it’s much better to experience it first-hand,” Garrison said. “It’s given me the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the environment and learn a lot more about gardening in general.”

The partnership was first organized by Steve Allgeier, home horticulture specialist at the University of Maryland Extension, Carroll County Office, said Mona Becker, who teaches the class.

Debby Davis, a Carroll County master gardener who lives in front of the site, said she kept asking Allgeier to help with the area, which is near the basketball courts and playground and had become overgrown.

Becker said she was contacted about the project and thought it would make for a great service learning project.

For a class assignment, Becker gave her students the option of writing a research paper or partaking in various service learning projects. Six students decided to help with this project, which she said has many benefits.

“This is a way the students can connect what they’re learning in the classroom with the environment,” Becker said. “It also helps the community here so it’s a win-win.”

Students met with master gardeners to learn how to identify native and invasive species and how to clear a wetland, Becker said.

They keep track of their work with a weekly journal and will present a poster about their experience at the end of the semester.

Terry Heinard, one of the master gardeners, said the first step to the project has been getting rid of the invasive species that have grown in the wetlands, including garlic mustard and Canada thistle, which is hard to eradicate because of its extensive root system.

“It’s just the beginning,” Heinard said. “We’re actually finding out what’s there and what we need to address.”

When the invasive species are taken care of, the area has the potential to be a really good wildlife habitat, Heinard said.

“There is a very lovely spring that’s the beginning of the waters that go into the Chesapeake Bay,” Heinard said. “I don’t think many people are aware of that, so it’s extremely important to try to take care of the area.”

Kay Sedlak, another master gardener, said the project will likely take a long time, though she is reminded of the progress already made when people walking through the park tell the group how much better the area is already looking.

Working with and teaching the students about gardening and the environment has been a great experience, she said.

“It’s always rewarding to interact with young people,” Sedlak said. “They’re the ones who will be in charge of taking care of issues like this in the future.”

Reach staff writer Caroline Hailey at 410-751-5908 or [email protected]

© 2012 Carroll County Times.

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