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Park returns to nature

Students build wetland on national park property

Students build wetland on national park property

October 13, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA.

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Kyle Myles' tennis shoes sank into the mud along the shore of the pond, making a sucking sound as he tried to lift them to move from spot to spot.

Myles' job was planting irises in the muddy water, and the 12-year-old Harpers Ferry Middle School student took special care as he carefully packed soil around the base of the delicate water flowers.

"This is really good. This is probably one of the best field trips I've ever had," Myles said.

Myles was one of about 30 Harpers Ferry Middle School students helping to establish a wetland education area on property owned by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

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The site was a farm along Old Furnace Road in the Bolivar Heights area formerly owned by former Harpers Ferry Mayor Bradley Nash, who died in 1997. Nash and his wife donated the farm to the park in 1991 while they were living there.

Nash loved green space in the county and wanted to make sure his property remained in its natural state, park spokeswoman Marsha Wassel said.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is mostly known for its Civil War history, but the natural beauty of the area makes it well-suited to study science and nature as well, Wassel said.

The park decided to team up with officials from a group called Environmental Concern and others to establish a wetland area at the Nash farm which can be used for school groups as part of their studies.

Organizers of the project said they obtained a $2,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help start the project, which involved carving out a spot in the ground for the pond and planting native wetland plants.

"Our idea for the Nash farm is to have an education center. This will be something new for us," Wassel said.

The pond was established not far from the farmhouse in a low area which might have been a pond at one time, officials involved in the project said. Crews using construction equipment scraped topsoil out of the low area and laid 6 inches of clay in the bottom and packed it to allow the area to hold water, officials said.

Natural runoff from the farm will keep the pond filled.

The students arrived at the farm Wednesday morning to help establish the pond as a class project and spent several hours planting wetland species such as blue flag iris, pickerelweed, bald cypress and duck potato, said Suzanne Greene, an educator with Environmental Concern, a nonprofit group that helps establish wetlands.

The pond is about 2 feet deep, and the students waded through it sticking plants in the water.

Dragonflies and songbirds should start arriving to the pond soon, Greene said.

Seventh-grader Lyndsey Hooe said digging in the soupy mix of water and mud was the best part of the work. She surveyed the scene from the bank as her classmates continued to wade through the pond.

"I like seeing what people have done," Hooe said.

The park plans to make the wetland area available to local teachers for science programs. Interested teachers will register to use the area, Wassel said.

Nash purchased the 65-acre farm in 1950. Besides mayor, Nash was an adviser to presidents, investment banker, author, naturalist and the subject of a 1995 book, "Statesman of Harpers Ferry."

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