On June 9th, 2014, a group of eight AmeriCorps Cape Cod (ACC) members partnered with the Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT) toaccomplish a restoration project on the E. Carlton Nickerson Gift, a small 0.69 acre parcel of pine-oak forest ridden with invasive plant species on Whippoorwill Lane in South Orleans. In 1971, a year after the OCT was founded, Ernest Nickerson and his wife Shirley gifted this parcel with the purpose of conserving open space and wildlife habitat in Orleans. Immediately across the street from this parcel lives Vera Johnson, who remembers when the area had very minimal vegetation and an open view to Little Pleasant Bay. She was very excited about the project and walked over several times to see how the day was going. A volunteer from the neighborhood, Ken Jorgenson, was eager to help clear out invasive vines throughout the day. The project was funded by the neighborhood and two brush boxes (large dumpster-like containers) were provided so stripped vegetation could be completely removed from the site.
When ACC members and OCT Director Kris Ramsey arrived at the beginning of the day, it was clear the parcel had not been maintained since the year of acquisition, save for pruning back vegetation from the roadway. Extremely dense thickets of Asiatic Bittersweet and Multiflora Rose as well as large bunches of Japanese Honeysuckle covered most of the area; there were only a handful of native species trying to make a living amidst the vines. Jumping right in, above-ground vines were cleared with a hedge trimmer and chainsaw and roots were ripped out of the now-exposed soil to prevent regrowth. Several young oak trees and a small cherry tree were quickly freed near the roadway. Throughout the day, ACC members kept pulling bittersweet vines out of a bogged-down large cherry tree in the center of the property and by the end of the day a healthy tree emerged, already in bloom. Several Pitch Pines and a Red Cedar were also liberated.
By the end of the very successful day, volunteers had filled two brush boxes to the brim with vegetation. Ms. Johnson, whose flower garden faces the E.C. Nickerson Gift, was ecstatic to look at a nice open habitat, one she remembered from decades ago, instead of a mess of vines. Several birds had already begun to explore the transformed area, possibly scouting potential nesting sites for the next season. The very last task involved raking all remaining debris to expose a layer of top soil into which Kris scattered handfuls of grass seeds. The E.C. Nickerson Gift can stand some more invasive vine removal, but overall the day was extremely effective and satisfying.