State College

ClearWater teams up with municipalities for forest restoration plan

ClearWater Conservancy is teaming up with College Township and State College in a public-private partnership to restore the forests of the Thompson Woods Preserve and Walnut Springs Park.

The forest restoration plan is targeting the 63 acres of park land to “improve the water quality of Walnut Run, wildlife habitat of the forest,” and the aesthetics and recreational value of the area, a news release said.

Members of ClearWater, along with township and borough officials and members of the community, met Wednesday in Walnut Springs Park to tour the park, taking stock of the vegetation and generally getting a feel for future restoration plans.

Walnut Springs Park was conserved as open space when the Walnut Springs development was planned, ClearWater conservation biologist Katie Ombalski said. Thompson Woods was conserved in 2000 to ensure Thompson Run remained forested, preserving the riparian buffer.

Now, in 2016, she said, while the community has been successful in preserving the land, there are a lot of issues.

We still have the forested buffer, but the quality of that buffer and surrounding upland forest is not in very good shape.

ClearWater Conservancy conservation biologist Katie Ombalski

“The natural resources are somewhat protected,” she said. “We still have the forested buffer, but the quality of that buffer and surrounding upland forest is not in very good shape.”

Recent forest inventory shows undergrowth within the forest is almost entirely dominated by invasive shrub species, the release said, providing little opportunity for tree regeneration. Several non-native trees have also been noted.

“The extraordinary amount of invasive plants on these properties may appear to create a ‘natural area,’ but actually limits the number of native flora and fauna in this area,” borough arborist Alan Sam said in the release. “To create a more sustainable ecosystem may require more intense management.”

Implementation of the plan will involve “significant clearing” of vegetation at both parks, the release said.

Ombalski said the restoration plan could be finished by the end of summer, and will be presented to the public at the College Township Municipal Building. Both municipalities have agreed to split the cost of implementing the plan.

There’s no word on how much the restoration will cost at this time, township engineer Kent Baker said. Costs will become available once the study is completed.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews