Planting the Future, in Mud: Springtime with Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW)

Are you ready to get your boots muddy? I am!

Having just moved to the Sharon Township area of greater Columbus we wanted to meet some neighbors, learn a bit about our new surroundings, and start giving back, right away. We’d moved in during late fall of 2021, just before the neighborhood went into winter’s hibernation. As spring arrived, the snow had melted, which left lots and lots of mud! We had plenty of work to do in our own backyard, but had the time and the energy to give to FLOW.

Becoming a volunteer for the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) was as easy as hearing there was a need for help, connecting with our former landlord (we knew he is involved with the organization), and showing up. We were wise to wear our Wellies. We’d be further from the Olentangy river than where our house sits, but spring rains had been heavy and we weren’t disappointed in our expectations that there would be mud.

We’re talking the kind of mud that folks lose footwear to!

The task at hand was to put native wetland plants in the ground, in an area that was “no good” for the typical midwestern lawn of green grass that has to be carefully and regularly maintained. The area – a park just east of High Street – kept flooding, to the point that a riding mower couldn’t get through it, so why fight it? Why not embrace the native landscape, celebrate the diversity of the remaining natural area, and plat more of what should have been there in the first place?

“FLOW’s mission is to keep the Olentangy River and its tributaries clean and safe for all to enjoy, through public education, volunteer activities, and coordination with local decision-makers.” (FLOW website)

Educational and volunteer efforts extend to protecting and rehabilitating the surrounding neighborhoods.

All we had to do was show up, with our love of the planet, open spaces, and native plants. Volunteers were already at work, clearing away large strips of grass that surrounded the already created wetland area. The goal was expanding the wetland footprint. The grass would be relocated as turf, to another area of the park, so it was cut and rolled into heavy bundles that were transported in a wheelbarrow. Spring rains made the rolls even heavy; I was relieved that I was not assigned to transport!

I was digging. I was pulling and cutting and clearing. Then I was planting! Trays and trays of native plants lined the sidewalks. These gems were just waiting to be dropped into their new homes. With a little instruction on how to best seat these tiny plants, at the correct depth and spacing, and I was on my way.

Working alongside a diverse group of volunteers, with varied levels of knowledge, was a treat. We certainly had our own, unique reasons for being there. The end result, however, would be the same. We’d be covered in mud. . . . and we’d make a contribution to the growth of this small patch of wetland.

Interested in getting into the mud this spring?

I’m certain that your volunteer hours and efforts would be welcomed!

You’ll be reminded of your younger days of jumping in puddles, splashing your siblings, and ending up covered in mud.

“FLOW relies heavily on volunteer participation to create positive change in our watershed. We have a wide variety of opportunities planned for the upcoming months that should fit your schedule and skill set. Visit our calendar page for details. We look forward to seeing you!

Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

Native plants – for the birds, bees and butterflies! (blog post:)

FLOW – Everything is Connected (Video):

May 22 Webinar – Macroinvertebrates and Stream Quality Monitoring:

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