MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — On Thursday morning, organizations from around Lancaster County came together to plant trees over 7 acres of land along a stream in Overlook Community Campus, aiming to support an array of benefits for the environment and the community.

The planting was organized by Stroud Water Research Center and other groups like the Lancaster Clean Water Partners, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and around a dozen others, and it will create a riparian forest buffer along the stream in the park.

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The riparian buffer, which is an area along a waterway or in a floodplain that is planted with trees and shrubs — in this case trees and shrubs that are native to Pennsylvania — will protect the stream and also help prevent flooding downstream of Overlook Community Campus, Stroud Water Research Center watershed restoration coordinator Lamonte Garber explained.

“People are hungry for ideas on how they can help [the environment], and you would be hard-pressed to find a better single action that you could take as an individual than joining a project like this where we’re planting trees along streams,” Garber said.

During the summer, trees provide shade that keeps stream water cooler, which is important for the fish and insects that live there. When the leaves fall off the trees and into the stream, they will become food for the organisms that live there, too, Garber said.

Additionally, the plants’ roots stabilize the streambanks and filter pollutants out of groundwater and runoff before they enter the stream. Garber explained.

On top of the benefits they have for waterways, trees also sequester (or store away) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby helping combat climate change, and the shade they provide helps keep people cooler, too.

If all of that was not enough, trees also provide habitat and food for wildlife, Garber noted. Native trees like those being planted at Overlook Community Campus play an especially important role in supporting local wildlife like birds, butterflies, and bees.

The trees planted at the park on Thursday are only saplings, sheltered by protective coverings and stabilized against wind and weather by stakes hammered into the ground, but in a few years, they will start to look more like a forest.

“When the general public can get up close to this planting, particularly as it starts to mature and the trees become bigger and the shrubs fill out, they’re going to be able to see a lot of native species of trees and shrubs that they could use on their own properties,” Garber said.

Garber hopes having the buffer along a walkway in a public park will showcase the native plants and help others realize the impacts of planting trees along waterways.

“If they live around any streams that don’t currently have trees sheltering [their] banks, maybe they can start planting those areas, too,” Garber said.

Garber suggests that anyone who is interested in getting involved with tree planting initiatives in Lancaster County check out the Lancaster Clean Water Partners website for more information.