The planting, which will help Girl Scout Caroline Dowd with her Gold Award, will take place Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at Blackbird State Forest's Naudain Tract, 2076 Harvey Straughn Road, Townsend.

Volunteers of all ages are needed March 17 and 18 to help plant 8,800 hardwood seedlings along the Cypress Branch at Blackbird State Forest to provide scenic beauty, enhance wildlife habitat, fight invasive species, and improve water quality in the critical Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The planting will also help Girl Scout Caroline Dowd earn her Gold Award. She is a student at MOT Charter High School in Middletown.

The planting will take place Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at Blackbird State Forest’s Naudain Tract, 2076 Harvey Straughn Road, Townsend.

The project is a cooperative partnership between the Delaware Forest Service, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Watershed Stewardship, and the Girl Scouts of the USA.

State Forester Michael Valenti said, "Planting trees always helps improve our environment. Planting over 8,000 oak seedlings next to the Cypress Branch gives an added bonus of water quality protection and acorn production for local wildlife such as wild turkeys. We need enthusiastic volunteers to help Caroline Dowd complete this tree planting project in her bid to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award."

The project also continues a proud partnership between local scout groups and state conservation agencies: in both 2012 and 2013, Boy Scouts planted 4,000 trees each year at Blackbird State Forest.

"This tree planting is a unique opportunity for volunteers to create a positive and lasting change for Delaware’s forests," said Marcia Fox of DNREC’s Division of Watershed Stewardship, "The new trees will restore wildlife habitat and advance the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Initiative by promoting volunteer participation in habitat stewardship and preserving an ecologically-valuable area."

Funding for the trees is provided by a grant to the Delaware Forest Service from the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship. The restoration of riparian forests is a key strategy for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, recognized as a "national treasure" and the largest estuary in North America, covering 64,000 square miles in six states and the District of Columbia. The Cypress Branch in southwestern New Castle County is one of the headwaters for the Chester River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay that begins where Cypress Branch and Andover Branch join together in Millington, Maryland.

DIRECTIONS TO THE TREE PLANTING

From Smyrna, travel north on Main Street which becomes Duck Creek Road north of town limits, then turn left on Vandyke Greenspring Road. Continue on Vandyke Greenspring Road for 4.4 miles and turn left onto Harvey Straughn Road. In two miles, turn left to stay on Harvey Straughn Road. Proceed for three-tenths of a mile to the planting site on the right.

From Townsend, go to U.S. Route 13 south then turn right on Blackbird Forest Road, pass the main offices of Blackbird State Forest and continue driving to Vandyke Greenspring Road. Turn right on Vandyke Greenspring, then turn left on Harvey Straughn Road. In two miles, turn left to stay on Harvey Straughn Road. Proceed for three-tenths of a mile to the planting site on the right.

RAIN OR SHINE EVENT

The plantings will be held rain or shine. Equipment, including shovels, will be provided. Volunteers are encouraged to dress appropriately for the weather – wear boots or other work shoes, heavy-duty gloves and hats and bring insect repellent and sunscreen, if needed.

Snacks will be provided and commemorative patches and T-shirts will be given to both youth and adult volunteers on a first-come, first-served basis.

The latest updates for the event are available on Facebook at Caroline Dowd’s Gold Award Reforestation and Riparian Buffer.

For more information, contact John Petersen at the Delaware Forest Service, 302-698-4552 or john.petersen@state.de.us.