Do you know what a healthy forest looks like? How about a healthy river or stream?
If not, it’s time to find out. The University of North Georgia is launching a series of community workshops to educate residents about the environment.
The workshops, the first of which is scheduled 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturday, March 23, will focus on giving community members hands-on experience in water and soil sampling, invasive plant species removal, tree planting and information on much more.
“The overall objective is to educate the community on native forest ecosystems, which include the water systems,” said Allison Bailey, associate professor of geography and environmental studies at the university.
The first workshop will take place partly in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building at the university’s Gainesville campus. The other part of the class will take place outside along Tumbling Creek Preserve Trails. The workshops are free, but registration is required.
“We want to provide members of the community with information about tree health, tree identification — what’s a native tree, what’s an invasive tree, what are the threats to trees — and all things that could be causing problems to the landscape,” Bailey said. “That way, homeowners and property owners, they have the scientific information to help them make decisions about how they want to manage their own property.”
Bailey said the goal of the workshop isn’t to tell homeowners what to do with their landscape — whether that’s their yard, garden or nearby wooded area — but to make sure they’re know how to best handle things so they can make those decisions on their own.
She said that’s why many people are in the North Georgia area in the first place, so they can have a yard or garden or enjoy nearby wooded areas. In order to keep North Georgia from turning into the forest of concrete and pavement that is downtown Atlanta, it’s important the community knows how to take care of what’s around it.
“We live in the beautiful North Georgia foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains area,” Bailey said. “Our forested areas are a major part of our landscape that I think many members of the community really value. That’s why they choose to move to Hall County.”
The workshops will feature different experts from around the area. On Saturday, there will be represent atives from Georgia ForestWatch, Hall County Master Gardeners, Georgia Forestry Commission, and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Guests will learn about the climate in the area, the nearby mountains and how they affect the Hall County piedmont, pollinators for gardens, the proper way to plant a tree, how to remove an invasive plant species as well as how to do water sampling.
“Some of the workshop will take place indoors where they’ll receive information in sort of a lecture format, but some will take place outside and we’ll have actual demos,” Bailey said.
One of the fun and important parts of this weekend’s workshop will be the tree-planting demonstration.
“That’s helpful because if you buy a tree from your local nursery and you want to plant it on your property, you want to know how to do that properly so the tree survives,” Bailey said. “We want to improve our native landscape. We don’t want to plant things that are going to die in three months.”
All of the workshops, which will be dispersed throughout the next two years, are part of a grant the university’s Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis received from the Environmental Protection Agency. Bailey and fellow professor Jamie Mitchem worked to secure the grant in order to teach the community valuable lessons in protecting the environment.
“Our main goal is to give them 30 to 45 minutes of a little information on a lot of topics,” Bailey said. “Doing a lot of different topics over a shorter period will be more interesting.”