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Tree planting strengthens creek bank and community

About 20 volunteers planted more than 120 native trees and shrubs in about two hours along the Kistler Creek on the Kempton Community Center’s property.

Kistler Creek passes through extensive pasture land before entering the Kempton Community Center property.

It’s a tributary of the Maiden (or Ontelaunee) Creek, which itself is a tributary of the Schuylkill River.

The trees planted on Oct. 26 included: swamp white oak, black gum, sycamore, red maple, and shrubs such as dogwood and button bush.

Each tree or shrub received a “tree tube,” a plastic cylinder that protects it from being eaten or damaged by deer or voles.

This demonstration project was made possible by the work of volunteers from the Kempton Community Center, the Albany Township Environmental Advisory Council, Berks Nature, Maiden Creek Watershed Association, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association, Master Watershed Stewards, and Sunrise Movement Berks.

Heavy equipment used in the project was donated by Kempton Excavating and Action Rental, South Whitehall.

Trout Unlimited and Berks Nature provided the plant material, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy also provided support for the project.

A project of the new Albany Township EAC, the purpose was to create a riparian (stream bank) buffer to demonstrate how trees and shrubs provide a natural way to protect Kistler Creek.

Albany Township Environmental Advisory Council Chairman Tom Kerr said the project came together in a relatively short period.

“From start to finish it was about seven months in the making,” he said.

Kerr noted they will continue to monitor or plant more trees or bushes, if necessary, to ensure the buffer remains intact.

The planting will re-establish a forested corridor, called a riparian buffer, along the stream.

The buffer will help slow down stream bank erosion, filter stormwater, shade and cool the creek and provide a wildlife habitat.

“What happens on the land affects the quality of our water,” Kerr said.

This will demonstrate to private landowners the value of protecting stream ways.

“Interpretive signage will be added eventually,” he said.

Even the small benefit from trees, such as shade, cannot be underestimated.

“Warm temperatures in streams are considered a kind of pollutions,” said Regan Mohl-Dohm, natural resource coordinator at Berks Nature. “If a stream is too warm, it can’t support trout or other aquatic life.”

Kistler Creek is a stocked trout stream.

Mohl-Dohm also noted that trees and shrubs will hang onto the soil so that it won’t move downstream and eventually block the stream completely.

The benefit is not just for wildlife.

“Sure there’s plenty of wildlife that comes to the stream,” she said.

“But kids do swim in it and it’s important to have water that they can play in.”

The picnic, fishing, and swimming area of the 48-acre community-center property will be shaded for the benefit of future generations of area residents and visitors.

Berks Nature Land Protection Specialist Sarah Chudnovsky was pleased with the turnout.

“There are a number of people and groups involved,” she said.

“While the township doesn’t own the land, they are able to work with other groups from the community to manage this project,” she stated. “So, this is also a demonstration of how organizations can come together to affect change.”

She noted trees and shrubs are only part of the solution.

Education and awareness are also necessary for the riparian buffer to be successful, she explained.

PRESS PHOTOS BY BERNADETTE SUKLEYBerks Nature Natural Resource Coordinator Regan Mohl-Dohm helps a volunteer plant a tree before the tree tube is wrapped around the tree Oct. 26 behind the Kempton Community Center.