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Nurturing mother nature

Volunteers preserve and protect hidden treasure

Created date

April 27th, 2010

Carolyn Denton doesn t claim to be a gardener. In fact, she refers to herself as having a brown thumb. But that hasn t lessened her love of the outdoors. Now, as the newly appointed cochair of Charlestown s Nature Trail Committee, Denton, along with 36 other outdoor enthusiasts, including her husband, Charles, volunteers her time preserving and protecting the half-mile-long trail tucked away within Charlestown's 110-acre campus. We moved to Charlestown three years ago this April, says Denton. Charles and I both love being outdoors and walking. Once we saw how pretty the trail was, we decided to get involved. The shady trail, which meanders along Herbert s Run (a stream near Charlestown s Cross Creek Station Clubhouse), boasts nearly 70 different species of wildflowers and 30 species of trees. Markers placed along the trail identify the different species and a collection of wildflowers is kept and catalogued. The trail is divided into sections, marked with numbers, says Neil Bogner, Denton s cochair. Each committee member is responsible for taking care of a certain portion of the trail. [We] also periodically have a work day where everyone goes down as a group and works on the trail. 

Second nature

Bogner spent his career with the Department of Agriculture. I m very interested in all things outside, he says. This is as close to being a farmer as I can get here at Charlestown. Being on the committee is a great opportunity to meet some of the nice people who live here and share the same interests as you. Any heavy work like a downed tree or hauling mulch is done by Charlestown's Grounds Department. We wood chip the entire trail once a year and when necessary, fill in any ruts that occur after heavy rains, says Patricia Watsic, grounds supervisor at Charlestown. We also replace wooden rails and markers when needed, do weekly inspections for hazardous trees or limbs, and collect trash from the receptacles along the trail.

Green idea 

The trail was the innovation of architect Paul Gaudreau, a naturalist who once lived in a terrace-level apartment home at Charlestown. Gaudreau envisioned a trail that followed the course of Herbert s Run and proposed the idea in a letter to management. Within days, work on the nature trail began and Gaudreau s vision took shape. As the trail became a reality, Gaudreau recruited his friends and neighbors and started the Charlestown Nature Trail Committee. Master gardener Carol Rexford, former chair of the Nature Trail Committee, now resides in Gaudreau s apartment overlooking the trail. One of the reasons I chose the apartment I did was so I would have the ability to garden, says Rexford. I have a corner patio apartment facing the end of the Nature Trail. When I first saw it, I knew it was the perfect apartment for me. Rexford says one of the first things she did upon moving to Charlestown was join the Nature Trail Committee. The trail is just a beautiful, fascinating place, says Rexford. Although we keep up with maintaining it, it is really supposed to be kind of wild and natural not manicured like a formal garden. According to Denton, it s that natural atmosphere that attracts foxes, tortoises, squirrels, rabbits, and dozens of different birds to the trail. We have benches along the trail where you can sit and watch the birds, and there s a covered bridge that goes across the stream. It s very tranquil and relaxing, she says. A new gazebo and expansive butterfly garden have also recently been added to the beginning of the Nature Trail. The Nature Trail Committee does a good job keeping the trail beautiful, says Watsic. The planting of wildflowers, ferns, and a rock garden have also added to the beauty and helps with erosion while preserving the natural atmosphere and tranquility of the trail. Last month, the Nature Trail Committee hosted Wildflower Day, an annual celebration inviting visitors to see the wildflowers at their peak.

Fun fact

A unique fall line between the Coastal and Piedmont geologic formations runs along the Charlestown Nature Trail.