North Point stu­dents help plant trees for fu­ture park

Con­ser­vancy groups hold plant­ings for Port To­bacco River Park

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Stu­dents from Nor th Point High School’s NOAA Ocean Guardians pro­grams helped make Charles County a lit­tle greener last week, plant­ing 835 trees near the Port To­bacco River.

The plant­ings are part of a larger project by the Con­ser­vancy for Charles County and the Port To­bacco River Con­ser­vancy. With help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, Charles County re­cently pur­chased 149 acres of for­mer farm­land along the head­wa­ters of Port To­bacco River, said Lynne Wheeler, mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors for the Con­ser­vancy of Charles County.

The Con­ser­vancy of Charles County and Port To­bacco River Con­ser­vancy have sched­uled

pub­lic tree plant­ings through the month of April, with the in­ten­tion of build­ing a nat­u­ral for­est buf­fer area to help pro­tect the river and cre­ate a habi­tat for wildlife in the cre­ation of a new county park, Wheeler said.

“We want to have an ac­cess road, to go down to the river, for kayak­ing launch, and for this to be a very low-im­pact re­cre­ation area, with walk­ing paths,” Wheeler said. “This specif­i­cally will be called the Port To­bacco River Park.”

Wheeler said the groups are plant­ing na­tive trees, in­clud­ing wil­low oak, white oak, bald cy­press, river birch and white pine trees.

Twenty-nine stu­dents from North Point’s NOAA Ocean Guardian pro­gram turned out Fri­day morn­ing to as­sist with plant­ing trees.

The NOAA Ocean Guardian pro­gram was cre­ated by the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, or NOAA, to rec­og­nize schools that have made a com­mit­ment to the pro­tec­tion and con­ser­va­tion of lo­cal wa­ter­sheds, the world’s ocean and spe­cial ocean ar­eas, such as na­tional marine sanc­tu­ar­ies, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Schools do this by tak­ing on projects and learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences re­lated to con­ser­va­tion of wa­ter­sheds and the world’s oceans and by en­gag­ing in en­vi­ron­men­tal and sus­tain­able prac­tices, ac­cord­ing to the Ocean Guardian web­site. El­i­gi­ble schools that meet their goals may ap­ply for grants through the pro­gram.

“What we’re try­ing to do is bring aware­ness to na­tional marine sanc­tu­ar­ies,” said Lolita Kior­pes, bi­ol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tal sciences teacher at North Point. “We teach the stu­dents about water­shed health, and how in our own back­yard, we can pro­tect the health of the ocean by pro­tect­ing wa­ter­sheds, be­cause the water­shed feeds into the oceans.”

Kior­pes said North Point is the first NOAA Ocean Guardian school in Mary­land.

“To be des­ig­nated [an Ocean Guardian school] means that we are out there plant­ing, do­ing, be­ing aware, and learn­ing to be­come good stew­ards of the earth,” Kior­pes said. “It’s also about cre­at­ing part­ner­ships within the com­mu­nity, so stu­dents know they’re not the only ones do­ing this.”

Kior­pes said North Point is cur­rently work­ing on ob­tain­ing its sec­ond of five ban­ners of­fered to NOAA Ocean Guardian schools.

“The stu­dents re­ally get into it,” Kior­pes said.

Leead­rian Tengco, 17, a se­nior and par­tic­i­pant in the Ocean Guardian pro­gram, said he be­came in­volved in the NOAA Ocean Guardians pro­gram af­ter tak­ing bi­ol­ogy with Kior­pes, and took part in tree plant­ings last year. He said he en­joys get­ting out­side and do­ing things to help pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

“For the gen­er­a­tions that come af­ter us, it’s im­por­tant to keep the earth alive, be­cause, as we know, pol­lu­tion and global warm­ing are re­ally af­fect­ing us,” Tengco said. “Not just for our­selves, but for an­i­mals too, be­cause we all ben­e­fit each other.”

Kior­pes said trees per­form a num­ber of valu­able ser­vices.

“Trees help with keep­ing the wa­ter cy­cle, be­cause the roots pull the wa­ter in, they hold the soil to­gether, they help with ero­sion, they help with clean­ing and fil­ter­ing runoff, they help with shade, they add oxy­gen, take out car­bon diox­ide, they cre­ate a habi­tat for an­i­mals, and food,” Kior­pes said. “There are a lot of things trees do, that we for­get un­til we sit un­der a nice, big tree.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

From left, North Point se­nior Sierra Early, fresh­man Ross Bon­aguro and se­nior Wil­liam Bolton lll plant trees at the fu­ture Port To­bacco River Park Fri­day.

STAFF PHOTO BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

North Point bi­ol­ogy and en­vi­ron­men­tal sciences teacher Lolita Kior­pes, right, speaks with stu­dents Do­rian Brown and Aye­sha Qureshi dur­ing the NOAA Ocean Guardians tree plant­ing by the Port To­bacco River Fri­day.

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