Since hundreds of volunteers tirelessly planted 109,000 native grass and wildflower plugs this spring along the Eastside Trail, we have enjoyed a remarkably wet summer. While this is wonderful for Atlanta’s water table, it poses a challenge for new grasses struggling to establish their roots. Brian Williams, the project manager from Trees Atlanta, explains:
This is a restoration of a damaged urban ecosystem, with all that implies (lots of manmade disturbance, constant pressure from invasive plants inside and outside the corridor, poor or nonexistent topsoils). Ecological recovery is a gradual process and each growing season will look better than the last.
This first year, the native grasses and wildflowers are in place and, most importantly, they are growing root systems. These root systems will build the soil, prevent erosion, absorb stormwater, and bolster the natives during times of drought; and while these ecosystem functions may not be flashy and visible right now, the ornamental aspect of the plantings will improve and become more visible.
Second, the natives are producing seed this year, which will result in seedlings next year, which will go a long way in tipping the balance of weeds vs. natives more toward natives.
Finally, the abnormally high amount of rain (we’ve almost exceeded total average annual rainfall) has certainly been a challenge in letting the new plantings get established. Unlike construction, this is an organic process and we want to help the public better understand the process of restoring urban landscapes and continue to keep them involved in what it takes to make a healthy, landscaped environment on the Atlanta BeltLine.
The following informational signs are now on the Eastside Trail: