SPARTA, NJ – Volunteers took over the Sparta Glen Brook park last Saturday to help with the restoration project undertaken by Trout Unlimited.  Nearly 30 people, mostly students, gave up their Saturday morning to plant more than 400 trees along the banks of the Glen Brook. On Sunday volunteers from the Sparta VFW were expected to continue the work.

This was the most recent phase of the restoration project being undertaken by the private organization Fred S Burroughs North Jersey Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  More than a year in planning, the actual work began earlier in the month with large equipment working in the stream for approximately two weeks.  The excavator expertly negotiated the stream, leaving hardly a trace the huge machine had been there. 

They dug pools and moved rocks and boulders to create riffles.  In some places logs were also placed in the pools to improve the habitat for anticipated trout according to John Nordstedt of Trout Unlimited. 

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The work in stream was done to improve the habitat to encourage a resurgence of trout.  Riffles are shallow rocky sections that serve to dissipate the energy of the stream. 

In one area the course of the stream was changed, eliminating an island, allowing for water to overflow into the parking area in times of high water.  This new course allows the energy of flood water to dissipate, reducing damage and debris.

Large rocks that already lined the banks were pounded into place making them more stable.  Other large rocks were moved to create seating for people to enjoy the stream. 

The planting will continue for a few week ends with more than 1500 trees to be added throughout the glen.  The trees will stabilize the banks and provide “thermal relief or refuge” according to Nordsetd.

Several professionals played important roles in the project.  Urbani Fisheries had a three-person crew from Bozeman, Montana operating the equipment, completing the in-stream work.

Lisa Barno of Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife was on site on Saturday.  She said, “The glen has been a struggling trout habitat for years.”  In the survey of the stream done last summer “we only had two brook trout;” a large factor in receiving grant money according to Norsted. 

Nordstetd thanked the Sparta township employees Eric Powell and Jerry Yonkers who assisted with the removal of debris including old large water pipes that had found their way into the stream over the years. 

Kristine Rogers of the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group of the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority created and oversaw the planting plan.  Rogers laid out the placement of the plants together with Trout Unlimited volunteers, digging holes and placing flags.  Once in the ground,  the plants were all geolocated to allow for long term monitoring. 

Some of the trees were bare-root plants, others were in containers.  There were even some species planted into the ground directly from cuttings including willow trees and pussy willows.  The students and adult volunteers worked from start to finish.  They planted, formed a bucket brigade to water and covered with weed barrier mats.

Mohawk Gardens also provided 20 large trees that were to be planted in the glen.  There are to be five trees of four different species. 

“Plants will be reassessed in the fall and replaced if necessary,” said Rogers.

Students that worked on the project last Saturday included:

  • Morgan Saulys, Rachel Sosik and Anna Tartaglia from Sparta Middle School
  • Quinn Kramer, Mike Defalco, John Gorman and Caleb Astwood Environmental Science students from Sussex County Community College
  • Patrick and Ken Gardner father and son from a charter school,
  • Three generations of the Wille family – Grandfather Steve, Father and Sparta High School teacher Mike, Sarah and Mary Grace and their friend Desi Tsamadias.
  • Two Chinese foreign exchange students from Pope John High School, staying with the Azzolina family

Bario said, “Working with the large partnership to get a lot of work done is wonderful.  The Kids have been great, working hard.”

Plants that were included in the rehabilitation:

  • Arrowwood,
  • Smooth Alder,
  • Green Ash,
  • Red Cedar,
  • Black Cherry,
  • Silky Dogwood,
  • Hackberry,
  • Pin Oak,
  • Swamp White Oak,
  • Spice Bush,
  • American Sycamore,
  • Pussy Willow,
  • Black Chokeberry,
  • Red Maple,
  • White Pine,

Trout Unlimited has been raising funds for the project.  Nordstedt reported they had made significant progress in reaching the $125 thousand goal.  They have received local donations from Lakeland Bank, Eastern Propane NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partners and others as well as grant money from the state.