Conservancy to improve Bird Park


Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy president Angie Phares and her dog, Kaia, survey an area in Bird Park that will be receiving new native trees and shrubs next year. The conservancy is seeking volunteers to help get the space ready for planting. /Photo: Judy Macoskey

The American Water Charitable Foundation has given the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy a $16,217 grant to improve the area around the streams in Bird Park. 

The area lost a lot of ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer several years ago, and more recently has lost some large black locust and black cherry trees to age.

As the trees died, invasive shrubs and ground covers including honeysuckle, privet, buckthorn, multiflora rose, English ivy and vinca filled the void, creating an almost impassible tangle, which made getting near the stream edges difficult, as well as making it difficult for native trees and shrubs to get established.

The grant will allow the conservancy to plant 41 trees and 20 shrubs in the affected area, and will also pay for equipment to augment its School in the Park program. 

“We’re very excited about it,” said conservancy president Angie Phares. “A grant of this size is of tremendous importance because it positions us to do work that we otherwise wouldn’t have the financial capacity to do.”

And they could use some help. One of the conditions of the grant is that the conservancy receive in-kind donations. Mt. Lebanon’s Public Works Department is contributing 50 hours of labor to remove invasive species and trees that pose a hazard. Public works is also killing poison ivy and donating materials to improve the surface of the hiking trails. In addition, the conservancy estimates that it will need a total of 440 hours of volunteer labor, to clear invasives, plant the trees and stabilize the trails. 

The project’s timeline calls for removal of invasive species through November, with a winter break and then resuming work in March through June, 2023, removing more invasives and planting the new trees and shrubs. Volunteers will be cutting and dragging brush out for chipping, pulling ivy and other vines and spreading mulch and gravel. In the spring, the newly planted trees will require protective cages to keep deer and other animals from destroying them. 

“It is potentially one of the most attractive areas of the park, and up until recently it’s been almost impossible to access,” said Ron Block, conservancy vice president in charge of projects. “Restoring the canopy over this area will help create stability over the long term. That’s the best way to ensure the park’s health over decades.”

If you’re interested in helping, you can learn more about volunteering at the conservancy’s website.