Into the Woods to Make Hunsberger a Greener Place

Does planting a tree forge a connection with the forest? Environmental Studies capstone seminar students seem to think so. As stewards of Hunsberger Woods, they led a cadre of volunteers in planting 130 trees.

They dug holes in the ground and carried water. The volunteers who turned out to plant trees on the 27-acre tract off Ninth Avenue made an impact on the students.

“I was so impressed with the turnout of volunteers,” said Dana Kluchinski. “We had classes, clubs and sports teams, but more importantly I talked to people who just wanted to come out. They came alone, without friends, solely to help plant these trees.”

The volunteers, added Curtis Barbacci, “were very eager to help and be as productive as possible. After the planting, some students told me it was ‘just nice to be outside and enjoy the outdoors and away from a classroom.’ I think this attests to the importance of having an area like Hunsberger Woods nearby that we could all enjoy.”

Agreed Mattea Pechter, “It meant a lot to see so many volunteers come out and support the department. It is great to know that people are conscious of projects like ours, and that they want to contribute to our effort to preserve Hunsberger Woods.”

Barbacci, Pechter and Kluchinski were among the environmental studies students who led more than 60 volunteers from across campus, as part of an ongoing partnership to improve the aesthetic and ecological conditions at Hunsberger Woods.

The Nov. 21 event involved a lot of planning among the capstone students. “All the prep beforehand, behind-the-scenes communication and decisions, allowed the tree planting to happen smoothly,” said student Hannah Marshall.

Kluchinski called the event gratifying. “I am excited for each of these trees to live long lives,” she said. “I overheard two girls planting next to me deciding to name their first tree. Now everyone who came has a special connection to Hunsberger Woods because they can come back to visit the tree(s) that they planted. They dug the holes, handled the tree roots, and carried buckets of water.”

A collaborative effort

The collaboration between the Ursinus Environmental Studies Department, the Borough of Collegeville and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), has continued since 2010 with support from the Pennsylvania TreeVitalize grant program. This is the third time since 2010 that the students of ENV-452W, under the direction of Professor Richard Wallace, have been involved in running restoration activities at Hunsberge, which is located off Ninth Avenue across from the campus. Associate Professor Patrick Hurley and students from his course, Forests and People, have also run a significant restoration project as part of this collaboration.

The planting also benefited from the enthusiastic involvement of PHS’s Barley Van Clief and Bob Adams, Associate Professor Leah Joseph and students in her ENV-100 class, as well as Visiting Assistant Professor Tristan Ashcroft. Volunteers from across the campus included the UC Green Sustainability Fellows, members of the women’s and men’s lacrosse teams and the Outdoors Club.

The capstone students who ran the program included environmental studies majors Hunter Bednarczyk, Zach Birch, Derek Burtraw, Michael Durst, Jesse Hart, Kevin Hwang,  Aaron Lemson, Margaux Mazur, Connor Murphy, Beth Myers,Tucker Noel, , Ian Schillinger-Brokaw and Zach Trauger, as well as Marshall, Kluchinski, Barbacci and Pechter.

“The whole point of stewardship is to improve conditions for the future, and public involvement is a huge part of that,” said Pechter. “The earth needs our support. Yesterday, Ursinus students provided that support. I felt very proud to be among them.”