North Carolina state park and AmeriCorps partner to improve longleaf pine forest
RALEIGH – A crew of AmeriCorps volunteers is at Singletary Lake State Park this week planting 13,000 wiregrass plants to improve the park’s longleaf pine forest and its habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The partnership also involves Quail Unlimited, which provided a $2,500 grant set aside to nurture warm-season grasses in areas off-limits to hunting. The wiregrass plants originated at the North Carolina Forest Service’s Claridge Nursery in Goldsboro.
Singletary Lake State Park in Bladen County has two known red-cockaded woodpecker colonies. The species prefers an “open” longleaf pine forest with few mid-story trees such as oak. A longleaf pine ecosystem is best supported by a wiregrass ground cover and regular prescribed burns. Establishing wiregrass is a labor-intensive process of planting by hand, and the team has also removed small hardwoods from the state park’s longleaf pine forest.
“The partnership with AmeriCorps has been a valuable experience for the state parks system, increasing our efficiency and giving us more options in managing the parks’ natural resources,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director.
This is the third year the state parks system has qualified to host an AmeriCorps volunteer team. The federal program for men and women ages 18-24 dispatches teams throughout the states for up to 11 months to perform about 1,700 hours of community service. The current nine-person team will spend more than six weeks in North Carolina’s state parks, participating in prescribed burns, preparing fire lines and removing exotic species and hardwoods in longleaf pine areas.