One of the themes of Manhattan Country School’s final eighth-grade farm trip is that of legacy. Each graduating class is remembered for a variety of reasons and the mark they leave on MCS is quite significant. The Class of 2018 has been investigating and discussing global and local water needs and issues during their three farm trips this year.
Our kids are in the unique position of being stewards of the New York City Watershed as MCS students and consumers of that water in New York City. Studying the two streams that flow through the MCS Farm, the problem of soil erosion is evident. We’ve experienced several torrential rainstorms over the past decade that have undermined the stream banks, eroded the stream floor and in some places changed the entire course of the stream. One of the remedies to this issue is riparian planting. The riparian zone is the interface between land and river or stream. A plan was created to plant native trees and shrubs to create a buffer. Working with Catherine, the Catskill streams coordinator at the Watershed Agricultural Council, MCS' Nature Teacher Annie put a plan in action. The Watershed Agricultural Council (also known as WAC or the Council) works with farm and forest landowners in the New York City watershed region to protect water quality on behalf of nine million residents. The MCS Farm has benefited from both their expertise and funding for several projects in the past.
The eighth-grade class spent a morning laying out the design, digging holes, placing plants and surrounding them with protective tubes to prevent animals from browsing. The work was not easy, given the nature of our Catskill Mountain soil. It was obvious that the old-time saying “two stones for every dirt” is accurate. The sun was beating down with temperatures in the low 80s. It was an extraordinary change from the cold and snow we endured two days prior.
Native species of trees ranging from red and sugar maple, silver and paper birch, spruce, ironwood and sycamore were planted. The shrubs included buttonbush, silky and red dogwood, elderberry, chokecherry and meadowsweet. In time, the roots of these plants will spread and take hold of the surrounding riparian soils. Much of the soil erosion from heavy rains or rapid snowmelt should be prevented by this project. The legacy of the Class of 2018 will not only be the protection of their beloved streamside, but the creation of a stunning shaded area for generations of MCS students to enjoy.