After severe flooding hit Lake O’ the Pines in 2015-2016 more than 40 acres of flood intolerant pine trees were destroyed by prolonged inundation in the popular Lakeside Park.
This week, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers received some welcome assistance from volunteers with Collins Academy, Jefferson High School Honors Chemistry Students and members of The Cypress Basin Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist who gave Mother Nature a helping hand in the reforestation of one of the larger flooded areas, by planting flood-tolerant bottomland hardwoods in an area where salvage of damaged pine trees had been completed.
Keith Cook, Environmental Stewardship and Line Business Manager, Natural Resource Specialist Ricky Maxey and Robert Henderson along with Forester Matt Seavey welcomed the group who arrived with tree planting shovels and buckets filled with a mixture of flood tolerant Bald Cypress, Water Hickory and Black Gum trees, and work to hand-plant the damaged area and help to create a sustainable, water tolerant forest began.
“The Corps Staff is pleased to have the volunteer project underway,” Henderson said. “We welcome volunteers. When people want to get involved, great things can happen. The lake belongs to all of us, and it is gratifying to find people who want to help us take care of it.”
Construction of the Ferrell’s Bridge Dam at Lake O ‘the Pines was fully completed in 1958. Congress established the reservoir for the primary purpose of flood control and water supply. Since that time it has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the Ark-La-Tex region for fishing, hunting, camping, birdwatching and for all types of water sports.
“Not only is it a popular recreational spot, but the lake is the primary source for flood control, water storage and drinking water for the region,” Maxey said. “In addition to the popularity of the area, it is also a favorite gathering location for winter Texans and retirees from October through March.”
Jefferson High students gave the project high marks, and look forward, according to their instructor Alma Rivera, to returning to the lake for other Collins Academy and Corps projects.
“This is a lifelong project for my students, who can return to this location years from now, mark the tree growth and realize they played an important part in creating a sustainable forest,” Rivera said. “We appreciate Collins Academy for providing many outdoor based learning opportunities for our students.”
Honor students Ralyn Green and Jasmine Bryson were excited to be involved in the project. Both expressed their interest in helping with projects that give back to the community and that benefit the environment.
Gary Endsley, Director of Collins Academy said this is only the beginning of volunteer projects around area lakes. He is scheduling more tree plantings and will begin planting milkweed, and wild flower seeds around the lake for visitors to enjoy and to provide nectar for bees, Monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
Endsley noted that populations of these species have been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, and it is up to residents to help them survive and multiply.
Seedlings to Collins Academy-Today Foundation were provided by a grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife for habitat restoration along the Big Cypress Bayou. USFAW has extended the funding twice because of the high quality performance of Collins academy and its primary partners, the Cypress Basin Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Individuals, organizations and schools interested in volunteering for future projects at the Lake should contact Gary Endsley at (903) 665-2900 at Collins Academy, or Ricky Maxey, Volunteer Coordinator at the Lake ‘O the Pines Office at (903) 665-2336, ext. 39.
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