Class of 2017 Helps Restore Crum Woods in Annual Orientation Service Project

By Mark Anskis
Students gather in the Scott Arboretum prior to the start of the Crum Woods Stewardship Project.

Nearly 320 members of the Class of 2017 took to the Crum Woods on Friday afternoon, planting native trees and shrubs to help restore the natural habitat as part of the College's annual orientation service project.

This is the second year that Swarthmore has incorporated a community service project into the orientation schedule, following last year's successful civic efforts at sites in surrounding communities such as Philadelphia and Chester.

The Class of 2017 was joined in the Crum Woods Stewardship Project by faculty, staff, campus advisors, and volunteers from the community. The event was organized by the College's Scott Arboretum.

According to Becky Robert, the Arboretum's public relations and volunteer programs coordinator, the goal of the project was twofold: increase awareness of the Crum Woods - a naturally wooded area comprising nearly three-fifths of the College's land - among new students and replenish areas of the Crum that have been diminished over time.

"Swarthmore College has a long tradition of honoring the natural environment, and this is a really great way to get students involved in the Crum Woods stewardship efforts," says Robert. She also notes the project originated from the College's Crum Woods Stewardship Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, and students that aim to assist in the protection, restoration, and stewardship of the Crum Woods.

Participants gathered in the Scott Amphitheater and were divided into 32 teams before heading into the Crum. Once in the Crum Woods, the teams each had 10 native trees and/or shrubs to plant, with the idea that each student would have the opportunity to plant one. Planting locations were scattered up and the down the length of the Crum Woods, with plants selected for each location based on the nature of the location. The hope is that as the plants mature, they will help prevent erosion and runoff into the Crum Creek and restore or preserve the forest canopy.

Native trees and shrubs planted during the project include: Betula nigra (river birch), Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam), Cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood),  Liquidambar styraciflua (American sweetgum), Quercus alba (white oak), Quercus prinus (chestnut oak), Sassafras albidum (sassafras), Amelachier laevis (serviceberry), Sambucus canadensis (American elderberry), Viburnum dentatum (southern arrowwood), and Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum).

The service project was well received among its participants, who were grateful to spend time in the scenic Crum and do their part to preserve its natural setting.

"I really like that freshmen can come back in four years and still see the tree they planted," says Nicko Burnett '14, a resident adviser and economics major from Anaheim, Calif. "It was a great opportunity to get to know the Crum Woods and to get to know the Class of 2017."

Nadine Kolowrat, a member of the Stewardship Committee and senior associate director of Sponsored Programs and Institutional Relations, was one of the team leaders. What struck her was the enthusiasm the new students had for the event - even if they had never set in foot in the woods until that afternoon.

"Our group had students from Vermont, Korea, New York City, Idaho, mainland China, New Jersey, New Zealand, and more," she says. "One student had never been in any kind of woods before. But they were all game, and I found it incredibly moving that incoming students from all over the world, even before their First Collection, were literally putting down roots here at the College."

For first-year Heitor Santos '17 from Recife, Brazil, the project served as a reminder of the beauty that surrounds that surrounds him while he's on campus. 

"The fact that we are having this contact with nature before classes start makes us remember that even when we are in class, we still have a separate place to go to if we need some time alone," he says. "Everything we are doing in our day-to-day college lives, it is still reflected in the nature around us."