‘Great Old Broads’ Plant Trees at Centralia’s Discovery Trail

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Despite the rain on Thursday, about a dozen volunteers from the Great Old Broads for Wilderness and the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust were out on the Discovery Trail in Centralia, removing invasive species and planting new trees and shrubs to help return the area to a healthy state.

The main goals of the three-day event, Nov. 4, 5 and 6, were stewardship and education. After planting was completed in the mornings, participants could go on guided nature walks to learn about what a healthy river bank and surrounding land should look like and the consequences of it becoming unhealthy. Participants also learned about the impacts of climate change on local natural habitats, tribal history on the Chehalis River, ecology systems and the history of the Discovery Trail.

The speakers on the guided walks included Janet Strong, president of Grays Harbor Audubon Society,  Alexa Brown, Coordinator Grays Harbor Stream Team and Laurie Kerr, leader of the Cascade Volcanoes Chapter of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. 

The Great Old Broads purchased 350 trees for planting along the river that will help provide shade over the river, creating a healthy habitat for wildlife and fish. Three different kinds of trees were planted over the course of the event — Ninebark, Thick Leaf Maple and Red Elder, Kerr said.

“In January, we are coming back up on the 23rd to plant 200 Douglas Firs and we got those donated,” Kerr said.

On Wednesday, 15 volunteers came out to help restore the trail, Thursday, there were 14 volunteers and on Friday, 21 people came out to plant trees and learn about the area.

“We have had Zoom meetings with local speakers to talk about climate change — really the issue is climate change,” said Kerr. “We’re just trying to plant trees and fight climate change.”

Kerr has been involved with the organization for about ten years and after meeting with Jan Robinson with the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust — the two formed a first-time partnership and planned the three-day event. The Cascade Volcanoes, Polly Dyer and North Olympic Peninsula are the three chapters of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness that volunteered in Centralia.

“We have a really established group in the Portland/Vancouver area and they’re just gung-ho gals. So I came down and I met with Jan Robinson and we formed a partnership and took it from there,” Kerr said. “We want to educate the public on free-flowing rivers.”

One of the most persistent problems on the Discovery Trail along the Chehalis River is the invasive species that are overtaking the habitat. Blackberry bushes are spreading all along the river and if they are not removed, the thorn-covered bushes will start growing over trees and other shrubs — killing them, Robinson said. Reed canary grass, which was planted on the former farmland for cows to eat, is also causing problems by overtaking native trees and shrubs.

The Chehalis River Basin Land Trust has been hosting work-parties along the Discovery Trail since 2002, Robinson said. Volunteers have removed many blackberry bushes and planted thousands of native shrubs in the area over the years but there is still much to be done in order to return the river bank to a healthy state.

“I hope the community will see that we still care about this trail and we are trying to improve it,” said Robinson. 

Those interested in helping restore the Discovery Trail to a more healthy state can email the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust to learn about upcoming events — office@chehalislandtrust.org. 

“We’ve got to get more help,” Robinson said. “If we don’t do this work the blackberry bushes will eventually knock down the trees and it will become an unhealthy Riparian zone with weeds taking over — that will affect the wildlife and the water.”

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