By: Danielle Yaste
There are projects with extensive histories, like the restoration of St. Croix (which I wrote about in my previous blog post), and there are projects that are new beginnings or first attempts. For the last two weeks my crew has been working on a project that is a new beginning for the Minnesota State Park system. In the past year the DNR has begun efforts to expand Lake Vermillion State Park after acquiring land that was formerly owned by a mining operation on the other side of the lake from the current state park. Over the last year Conservation Corps Crews have been utilized in the preparation of the new area, and we were back again this spring to continue that process.
For our crew, that preparation has taken the form of lots of trees. Many of the forests around Ely and further North have experienced a hug loss in their Balsam Tree population due to an insect called the Spruce Budworm. Spruce Budworms have the capacity to kill off entire forests of conifers—and that is exactly what has occurred in areas of forest within the newly acquired state park land.
While campgrounds are designed and roads are constructed—we planted trees beneath and beside the dying and decaying balsams. Places that were once dominated by balsam, are now locations in which 10,000 White Pine, Norway (Red) Pine, and Red Oaks reside. Each tree was hand planted in carefully selected locations amongst the rough, rocky terrain of Northern Minnesota. GPS points were collected, allowing for future care to be given to these young seedlings with the hope that timber stands will come back stronger and more diverse than they were before the presence of the Spruce Budworm—and in doing so, making the new park both more healthy and more enjoyable for its visitors.