The Greening Mountainhome project is a Green Communities project funded by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, with support from The William Penn Foundation, and the Weiler Family Foundation. Green projects in Mountainhome and surrounding areas will help keep Mill Creek cold and clean. Read more about Mill Creek here.
24-7 testing at Mill Creek
We’ve all learned much more than we ever expected to about the “cold chain” — keeping coronavirus vaccines super-cold through many stages of shipping.
How do shippers know for sure that the right temperature stays steady?
They use sensors, called data loggers, to keep track round-the-clock.
Data loggers can electronically monitor all kinds of variables — not just temperature but also wind speed or direction, vibration, almost anything that can be measured. And they can monitor data in almost limitless settings, from what’s happening in volcanoes or earthquake zones to what’s happening in a creek.
In fact, as part of the work of Brodhead Watershed Association’s Greening Mountainhome project, volunteers Matt Dilger and Michael Johnson have set up a data logger in Mill Creek.
Like the “cold chain” monitors, the Mill Creek logger keeps track of temperature. It also tracks the depth of the water. Because even on hot summer days, healthy creek water stays cool, the way trout like it. And even when it hasn’t rained for a while and creeks are low, cool groundwater keeps the creek flowing and habitable for trout and other creek critters.
The data logger also keeps track of something called “electrical conductivity.” Conductivity measures water’s ability to carry electrical current based on the concentration of ions in the water. In Pocono streams, most conductivity comes from salt that’s washed off roads and parking lots.
Even salt that filters into the ground eventually reaches streams. In areas near interstates and other busy highways, salt levels are so built up in groundwater that conductivity remains high throughout summer.
Fortunately, our area’s headwater streams, including Mill Creek in the Upper Brodhead watershed, look good. Keeping them that way is the point of the data logger.
You can see data loggers throughout the Brodhead Watershed at monitormywatershed.org. Search for “Brodhead” for sites maintained by BWA and “East Stroudsburg” for sites maintained by ESU.
This equipment is connected to the data logger in the creek and communicates the data that is being recorded every five minutes.
Volunteers Michael Johnson (left) and Matt Dilger start the process of installing the data logger in Mill Creek.
The confluence of Mill Creek (left) and Brodhead Creek.
“Essential services” courtesy of PA Game Commission — and Mother Nature
Even if you don’t hike, hunt, or spend any time at all in nature, the forests of Pennsylvania serve you in ways that make life better.
Views, for starters. Just seeing green views enhances mood, reduces blood pressure, and counteracts stress. All around Barrett and Paradise townships, unspoiled land protected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and others unrolls in every direction. No depressing McMansions. No cookie-cutter developments. Just open sky-scapes and the seasons unfolding around you as you go about your business.
Safe drinking water, too. In the process of managing forests to improve wildlife habitat, the Game Commission keeps woodlands healthy. And healthy woodlands are the first, best defense of drinking water. As rain and snowmelt percolate through the soil, contaminants get filtered out before the water reaches Tank Creek, Devil’s Hole, and Mill Creek — or your well. People around the country have to pay for water that’s treated to make it drinkable. Here, preserved land supplies it to us naturally.
Even the air is cleaner in forestland. When noxious stuff like ammonia or sulfur dioxide settles on the leaves of a tree, the tree actually absorbs the toxic chemicals — scrubbing air clean for you and your family to breathe. Trees capture particulate matter, too — the sooty grunge that settles on windowsills in cities — which clogs the air and leads to heart and lung disease.
If those aren’t enough gifts from the forest for you, here are some more: Trees absorb the carbon dioxide we breathe out and release the oxygen we breathe in. They store climate-changing carbon in their wood. They’re big-time recyclers, soaking up water from the earth and releasing it from their leaves, to fall back to earth as purified rain. And their roots hold soil in place, preventing erosion.
So when the Game Commission works to keep habitat in State Game Lands 221 hospitable for game birds, deer, and bear, they’re protecting air, water, and hospitable habitat for all kinds of nature’s creatures. Including us.
The forest helps keep our water clean, naturally.
ENJOY THE GAME LANDS: Game lands are open to the public. Whether hunting or hiking, always wear orange — something is almost always in season. Trailheads for Pennsylvania State Game Lands 221 are at the end of Pleasant Ridge Road in Mountainhome, along Hardytown Road in Cresco, and off Devil’s Hole Road in Paradise. A map of State Game Lands 221 is here.
Half a mile of knotweed gone; preparing for more in summer 2021
Landowners along a half-mile stretch of Mill Creek in the heart of Mountainhome can get help controlling the knotweed which clogs their banks and the creek, starting this summer.
Brodhead Watershed Association sent letters to streamside landowners in early February, describing the work, which will start in late June/early July. Participation is voluntary. The treatment is free to the landowner, thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, managed by BWA.
Knotweed may seem like nothing special, but it can make a mess of a creek.
Some of the damage is obvious. Knotweed is a fast, vigorous grower, and established stands can completely engulf a small stream like Mill Creek, interrupting water flow, eroding banks, and even changing the water’s chemistry. Native plants get completely crowded out, and all that knotweed debris ends up in the creek in the fall, smothering everything.
The stretch of bank to be treated starts where the creek goes under Route 191, paralleling Brutzman Extension for 1,500 feet to Route 390, then another 1,200 feet to Wieboldt Road. The procedure recommended by Penn State will be followed: cutting in late June/early July and then treatment with herbicide by a licensed operator in late September. The herbicide is specifically chosen to be safe around water, and the licensed operator is Strauser Nature’s Helpers.
On one property, a second control method called “cut and cover” will be used. The knotweed will be cut in June, and then covered with landscape fabric to prevent regrowth. This will allow comparison to determine the most effective procedure.
Knotweed is persistent, and the funding for the project includes treating the area again in 2022.
Last summer, a 500-foot “demonstration area” was treated from Route 191 to Pleasant Ridge Road. Any regrowth this year will be treated again by volunteers Trip and Matt Dilger.
“Getting rid of knotweed here in summer prevents it from setting seed,” said Edie Stevens, who is managing the project for BWA. “That keeps seeds from moving downstream — so this project also protects lower reaches of Mill Creek as it heads toward the Brodhead.”
HOW INVASIVE KNOTWEED SABOTAGES TROUT
Removing knotweed once it is established is painstaking, slow work. Locally, Buck Hill Falls has undertaken a large project to remove it in the upper reaches of Buck Hill Creek. The work has been successful, but it’s taken three years. And vigilance will be required to treat and remove new growth.
Why is it worth the effort?
In addition to the obvious damage knotweed does by clogging creeks, a lot happens below the surface.
Native trout feed on a smorgasbord of macro invertebrates — the critters that live in and on the bed of a healthy, cold creek, like dragonfly and stonefly larvae, tiny snails, worms, and beetles.
Macroinvertebrates in turn feed on decomposing leaves. But not just any leaves — they feed on decomposing leaves of maple, oak, and other native species. Knotweed debris is just so much garbage for them, no more useful as food than pebbles, dirt or grass would be to a human.
So when knotweed takes over a stream, macro invertebrates suffer and decline, leaving trout reduced sources of food. And it’s a one-two punch for the fish. Since knotweed leaves don’t get broken down, they settle on the creek bed, fouling the clean gravel trout need to spawn.
Nature is a balancing act. When we throw a wrench in the works with an invasive like knotweed (which was intentionally introduced as an “ornamental” in the late 1800s), it’s on us to try to fix it.
Knocking out knotweed along Mill Creek in Mountainhome
Matt Dilger chops down knotweed along Mill Creek.
The patch of knotweed has regrown after being cut and must be treated.
By Carol Hillestad
Knotweed clogs creeks almost everywhere in Monroe County, and Mountainhome’s Mill Creek in Barrett Township is no exception. A project to demonstrate how it can be eradicated is underway there with help from Brodhead Watershed Association.
This invasive weed crowds out native plants and fills the creek with debris, harms our own native fish and plant life, and spreads like crazy. It can alter life and water conditions in our natural creeks.
But it’s not indestructible.
HOW TO CONTROL KNOTWEED
In early July 2020, BWA started a three-year demonstration project of how to control this pest. In one week, they worked both banks along a 500-foot stretch of Mill Creek, starting at the Forest Fire Crew Station on Route 191 and then upstream to Monomonock Road. They cut all the knotweed down to knee height, NOT shorter.
Over the summer, the knotweed drew huge amounts of energy from its roots to regrow. In late September, a licensed applicator from Strauser Nature’s Helpers treated the regrowth with an herbicide licensed to use near water. Within three weeks, most of the regrowth had died (while other stands downstream were still green and healthy).
A THREE-YEAR PROJECT
This is the first year of a three-year demonstration project. This stretch will be examined for regrowth next June. If there is any, it will be cut, again knee-high, and the regrowth will be treated in the fall. The same process will be followed the third year.
This cycle of forcing the plant to use all its energy in regrowing again and again finally exhausts it.
Once the knotweed has stopped regrowing, streamside plantings of native plants can be done to replace it.
This technique of cutting to knee height, then treating regrowth in late September, is endorsed by Penn State University after years of research. It was used by Certified Forester Barry Rose on Buck Hill Creek, with 98% success. However, to be effective, control must start at the furthermost upstream “seed bed” of knotweed, or the upstream patches will continue to bring seeds and stalks downstream.
It’s important to note that this demonstration project covers a short stretch of stream. Much more needs to be done to make an impact on knotweed throughout the watershed.
For information: https://extension.psu.edu/japanese-knotweed
Mountainhome church digs in to protect Mill Creek
By Carol Hillestad
For Brodhead Watershed Association
Mill Creek is one of the cleanest, purest waterways in Monroe County, according to a 2019 study.
Keeping it that way is the goal of an Eagle Scout project and a stormwater infiltration project at Mountainhome United Methodist Church.
“Mill Creek is directly downhill from the church. The church roof, asphalt parking lots and an asphalt walkway were funneling dirty stormwater right into the creek,” said Edith Stevens of Brodhead Watershed Association, which helped coordinate the projects. According to Stevens, “Millard Price, Mickey Miller, Chadd Gray and Trip Dilger, all members of the local community, worked with us to make sure the projects were the right fit for the church.”
Miller, a longtime member of the church, said, “I worried about the mess and how everything would look when they were done. But the pavers are beautiful, and they did a beautiful job cleaning up after the work was done. And once the grass starts to grow, you won’t even know where the underground trench is.”
For his Eagle Scout project, Dillon Brunetti of Canadensis replaced the impervious asphalt walkway with pervious pavers, which allow rainwater to sink into the ground. Brunetti worked with fellow Scouts from Troop 89 and neighbors to get the old asphalt removed and new paving stones set in place to allow rain from heavy storms to infiltrate slowly.
Matt Dilger, Chadd Gray, Dave Ohmnacht, Ralph Megliola, and Trip Dilger helped get the work done along with many others. Brunetti raised money in the community, including from Brodhead Watershed Association, for the project. BWA paid for the paving stones and RGM Landscaping did the preliminary work to remove the walkway.
Jerry Rinker, a local businessman who has been in the excavation business for 32 years, won the contract to build an underground stormwater infiltration trench.
“The trench is basically an underground void that releases stormwater into the earth slowly,” he said. “It’s lined with geocloth and holds two pipes, 80 feet long and two feet in diameter, that have small holes that will hold rainwater draining from the parking lot and allow it to seep out slowly into the earth.” The pipes are surrounded by crushed stone, and finally covered with a layer of soil and grass.
In all, 209 hours of work were donated by the Scouts and the community. The Barry Quarry donated the stone, and hauling was donated by Haab Trucking.
The infiltration trench was designed by Drew Wagner, engineer with Monroe County Conservation District. Funding for the project came from a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant for green projects to protect Mill Creek, administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.
Look for signs of greening in Mountainhome
When rain falls or snow melts in a natural landscape, the water slowly seeps into the earth. But parking lots, roads, roofs, and other hard surfaces interrupt that natural cycle. Instead of seeping into the earth, stormwater rushes off and scours away, washing sediment and other pollutants into the nearest creek.
“Green infrastructure” is an umbrella term for the many ways it’s possible to slow that stormwater down, capture it, and allow it to seep into the soil in ways that mimic nature.
That’s what the flurry of activity this summer was all about at Mountainhome United Methodist Church, on Route 390 in Mountainhome, Pa., where two green infrastructure projects were installed. One involved removing solid asphalt and replacing it with pavers that allow stormwater to sink deep into the ground. The other created an underground holding tank that captures stormwater runoff from the church roof and parking lot, allowing it to infiltrate the soil slowly and naturally.
Mickey Miller, a long-time member and leader of the church, was pleasantly surprised by the results. “I was afraid it was just going to be such a mess,” he said. “But now you can’t even tell where the work was done.”
That’s a good thing. But part of the purpose of the projects was to clue people in on how green infrastructure can purify water and protect beautiful Mill Creek, the heart of Mountainhome.
“Signs will be posted here in the spring,” said Edie Stevens of Brodhead Watershed Association, who got the project rolling. “One shows a cut-away view of the underground trench. The other shows the permeable layers that are underneath the new pervious pavers.” The interpretive signs will have photos and information about how the projects work.
“Compared to the cost of cleaning up a polluted stream, green infrastructure is a bargain,” Stevens added. “It’s natural, cheap, and much more effective than complicated mechanical systems.”
The Greening Mountainhome project is a Green Communities project funded by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, with support from The William Penn Foundation, and the Weiler Family Foundation.
GO GREEN AT HOME WORKSHOPS
JULY 2020 WEBINAR: Rain barrels – why and how to use them
Have you ever wished for a more efficient way to water your garden, keep your car clean and save money all while helping the environment? A rain barrel can do all this and more.
On July 25, 2020, Brodhead Watershed Association, in partnership with Monroe County Conservation District, hosted a webinar showing what rain barrels do, how to install one and to decorate it.
In this online workshop, part of BWA’s Greening Mountainhome program, Darryl Speicher talked about this method of collecting rainwater for many uses around the house as well as its pollution prevention abilities. Here is an archived recording of the webinar:
In May 2020, the webinar Garden for Clean Water was held.
Local Master Gardener Amy Romanelli-Girardi led the webinar on how to keep your water clean and the garden growing all summer long.
“What we put in our garden affects more than just our garden,” Romanelli-Girardi said.
Learn how your choice of plants can directly and indirectly contribute to water quality, how home landscapes impact the entire area drained by Brodhead Creek, and which native plants work for yourself, wildlife, and everyone’s drinking water.
To see the archived webinar and learn more about native plants, click here.
PROJECT: Barrels around Barrett
In another facet of the Greening Mountainhome program, beautifully painted rain barrels have been installed in Mountainhome.
Looking for the barrels? Check the map here.
Painted rain barrels beautify their locations as well as catch roof runoff to be used in gardens nearby.
Thank you to these barrel artists: Krista Paolucci, Marty Gylleck, Theresa Merli, Jill Swersie, Alexis O’Keefe, Patti O’Keefe, Debbie Hardy, Kristina Closs, Gail Howard, Kristy Galunic, Emilia Kur, Marilyn Detrick, Darryl Speicher, Tanya Lutin, Annelizabeth Messina, Lee Schuler, Alma Barrantes, Linda Lewis, John James, Chelsea Mayo with Cynthia Vineis, Nicole Abrams, Ryan Burke, Kendall Farley, Grant & Madison Hilfiger.
Sponsors include: Bloomin’ Onion Restaurant; Michelle Farley; Joseph Dilger, DDS; ESSA Bank & Trust; NBT Bank; Blake Martin Financial; Donaghy Insurance; Steele’s Hardware; Capri Pizza; Mick Motors; Woodfield Manor; Frogtown Chophouse; Buck Hill Falls Company; PourHouse; Basso; Rotary of the Pocono Mountains; Barrett Township Historical Society; Tom’s Country Kitchen; Callie’s Candy Kitchen; Daily Bread; Barn Door Antiques; Mickey Miller; Peter Maier; Natalie Berdoe; and Hilfiger Contracting LLC.
For more information about installing and maintaining rain barrels, click here.