Christopher Roberson, a senior at Fern Creek High School, recently examined a small animal print in the muddy banks of Floyds Fork in Miles Park.
“That’s a perfect print right there,” he said.
Joe Franzen, the environmental teacher at Fern Creek who guessed it was probably from a possum, led students in his class farther down the stream, pointing out wildlife along the way.
The trek was as much a reward for a morning spent in manual labor as it was outdoor education.
Franzen’s class set out about 140 dogwood and redbud saplings, one of the first steps in the plans by 21st Century Parks to reforest the new Parklands of Floyds Fork with 150,000 new trees.
The Parklands of Floyds Fork is a nearly 4,000-acre system of green space and parks that will follow the winding creek from Shelbyville Road to Bardstown Road.
Students planted the trees along the creek banks and flood zone to prevent erosion, said Michael Gaige, natural areas manager for the Parklands. The trees’ flowers, leaves and seeds will add value to the area’s ecosystem, as well as beautify it, he said.
He said the parks system has removed about 2,000 linear feet of invasive species in Miles Park along the creek, from the canoe launch to Shelbyville Road. There are plans to replace them with about 2,000 trees, he said.
“Ideally, the more trees you have in the flood zone, the better,” he said.
He said he’s targeting the most natural and high-use areas in the overall parklands system for invasive species removal and reforestation. One of the largest projects will take place this fall, when about 20,000 trees are planted on 45 acres off Stout Road, near Seatonville and Billtown roads.
Much of the work for such projects will be done by volunteers, like the students from Fern Creek High School. Franzen said he’s taken advantage of his school’s partnership with 21st Century Parks on several occasions by taking his students on field trips where work is progressing along Floyds Fork.
Roberson said he enjoyed getting muddy and being outdoors. And “I learned how to properly plant a tree,” he said.
David Miles, son of the late William F. Miles, for whom the park is named, was on hand to thank the students for their work, and to tell them of the lasting lessons he’d learned there too. He told them how he helped his father clear out rocks and debris to rehabilitate the land as a teen in the 1960s.
“It was a great learning experience as a young person. It taught us about the value of hard work.” he said. “I’m thrilled to death to see this place preserved, and my father would be thrilled to see this place preserved.”
– Reporter Niki King