This week heralded the beginning of a new project. Until now, our crew worked exclusively at the Grand Canyon visitor center, maintaining the restoration sites that previous SCA interns and volunteers planted. We watered, caged, mulched, weeded, and had volunteer groups to help us plant.
Now we are shifting from maintaining an inherited project to a clean slate—a completely new project that we are entirely responsible for. We will now be working at recently completed LEED certified staff apartments which are a stones’ throw away from the vegetation office. The ground here is completely bare, and waiting for the plants in the nursery.
Because this is a new project, this week involved lots of orientation and troubleshooting. The restoration biologist in our office gave us a daily list of tasks. We assembled tools and plants. We toured the facilities, sizing up the task before us: 15,000 plants need to be planted, mulched, and caged by December. After this initial set-up and orientation, we began to swing our pick-mattocks and put our first plants in the ground. We are primarily planting grasses such as Mutton grass and Blue Grama, as well as forbs such as Globe Mallow and Penstemon. We will also plant some larger shrubs including Currants and Apache Plume. A contractor will use machinery to plant several larger trees and shrubs, mostly Pinyon pines and Junipers, which dominate the South Rim ecosystem but take many decades to grow.
Although this week was a bit hectic and confusing, we still managed to plant, mulch and cage all of the parking lot islands (small areas of ground between parking spaces). We also used GPS devices to map the planting areas, and familiarized ourselves with the new drip irrigation we will be installing. This is but the beginning of a long project that our team will be dedicated to for the next four months.