“What you plant now, you will harvest later.” _ Og Mandino.
ALSTEAD, N.H – As area residents know all too well, the town of Alstead experienced the greatest flood in its history in October 2005 and is still recovering.
A flood-plain planting by hundreds of teachers and students from Alstead, Acworth, Charlestown, Lempster and Walpole schools at Warren Brook recently was undertaken in an effort to prevent flooding in the future.
With the guidance of the Cold River Local Advisory Committee, live stake shrubs and trees on the flood plain of Warren Brook were planted to enhance flood protection of the brook.
The sight of all these children harmoniously working together up and down both sides of the flood plain was powerful and heartwarming, many in attendance said. Some of the students weren’t even born when the flood took place.
According to Fred Ernst, advisory chair of Cold River Local Advisory Committee, the organization was set up about 15 years ago by the State of New Hampshire to protect the quality, environmental importance, and recreational value of certain designated rivers.
“After the devastating 2005 flood in Alstead, the initial recovery effort was to stabilize the Cold River and its most important tributary, Warren Brook,” Ernst said. “At that time the stream bed of Warren Brook had been lowered by six feet and the brook had been straightened, both actions resulting in the flood plains of the brook not functioning. Since then it had been determined that additional work was required to lower the flood plain and restore the curving nature of the brook to make it function naturally and help control the brook under flood conditions.”
Fran Macri of the Maple Hill Nursery provided 11,000 plants for the students to put in the ground.
“We have two varieties of plants, a willow and a dogwood that tolerate wet soils and absorb water and they root in quickly to hold the banking,” Macri said. “The plants were put in on both sides of the flood plain; the idea is to stabilize all the earth the brook runs through.”
Macri gave a planting demonstration to the students, who were then paired off by their teachers to ensure maximum effect.
Ernst gave a brief overview of the importance of their task and emphasized the enormity of the flood, revealing that during the early part of the committee’s work an entire car was found buried under the mud.
“Over the last three years, the Cold River Local Advisory Committee has worked with the engineering firm Headwaters Hydrology, DES, and New Hampshire Fish and Game to develop the plan, get approval, obtain sufficient funds, and award the contract to Bazin Brothers Trucking,” Ernst said. “The planting of shrubs along the edge of the riverbed is the final phase of this restoration project. It is the third section of 900 feet to be done.
“The original restoration after the devastating flood in 2005 essentially stabilized the bridge. The new work restored the windy nature of the brook and lowered the flood plain around the brook so it can once again absorb high flows of water in the spring and during major rain events. It will also make possible the restoration of fish and other aquatic wildlife that cannot withstand the current high, unrestrained water flows.”
Many participants offered comments about the project.
Susan Lichty, a Lempster representative of Cold River Local Advisory Committee, said she lives along the Cold River near its headwater.
“I am very much concerned about the river’s ecology and preventing damage,” she said.
Eighth-grader Kali from the Charlestown Middle School also commented.
“It’s very important to help the local community,” she said.
Mitch Harrison, a science teacher at the Vilas Middle School, said their work was needed,
“It’s important to do everything we can that concerns the local environment,” Harrison said.
Cathy MacDonald, a committee member from Alstead, looked out at the planting being done and summed it up.
“This was once just a rock pile, but soon people will be able to fish again,” she said.