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The Evolving Plan 2024

Page history last edited by Ruth 4 weeks, 1 day ago


On December 5, 2023, we held a community forum about the Food Forest at the West Hartford Library. Although only a few people showed up, it was a productive discussion. The consensus of the group was that we need to modify the food forest design plan.


Two major reasons for the change in plan


1) The likelihood of increased future flooding

The July 10th flood was a wake-up call that highlighted one of the main challenges to the food forest. It also showed us that Clifford Park’s location in the floodplain may not be a suitable location for an Abenaki 3 Sisters Garden.


2) Very poor soil

In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene seriously damaged the riparian buffer and a thick layer of silt was left throughout the park. During the cleanup process, the ground was scraped to remove the silt, but the topsoil was removed along with it. What is left there is soil with no life and very little organic matter. Many of the trees and bushes we planted over the last couple of years are either dead or seriously struggling.



Two main goals of the new plan (see map below)


1) To extend the riparian buffer along the White River with native, flood-tolerant trees and shrubs (see below) to mitigate the effects of flooding in the future


2) To build up the soil and create more biodiversity

  • Get life back into the soil - organic matter, micro-organisms, nutrients..
  • Continue with a variety of diverse cover crops in some areas
  • Develop the in-between meadow areas - native pollinator plants, clovers, grasses - seed liberally and see what takes
  • We are not able to bring in materials to improve the soil since the food forest is located in the 100-year flood zone. Instead, we have to build up the soil by growing cover crops and whatever else we can get to grow there.
  • Plant perennials and self-seeding annuals like sunchokes, ground cherries, comfrey, sunflowers, etc. in the area that was to be the 3 Sisters Garden; possibly create some mounds to plant on in that area
  • Continue with the mulch plot to grow our own hay mulch






On December 14, Matt visited the park with Greg Russ of the White River Partnership and Parks and Recreation Department Director Scott Hausler. He was hoping to get input on ways to enhance the Clifford Park riparian buffer. The riparian buffer was badly damaged during the Irene flood but has recovered since then. Greg acknowledged that the buffer did its job during the July 10th flood this year, giving floodwaters a place to slow down. Even so, we would like to extend the buffer further into the park. Greg provided a list of native trees and shrubs that do well in floodplains. 


Greg says, "Typically what we do is look at the soil type for a site and then match that soil type to a natural community. From there we can find species that would typically be found at a site and would tend to thrive. The soil type for Clifford Park is Ondawa Fine Sandy Loam. The natural communities would be a Silver Maple-Ostrich Fern Floodplain Forest and a Sugar Maple-Ostrich Fern Floodplain Forest."


 Greg's suggestions for the riparian buffer

Some native nut/fruit bearing trees or shrubs that would be naturally found at Clifford Park

     Butternut (Juglans cinereal) 

     Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) 

     Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)


Some other native trees and shrubs that aren't necessarily part of the specific natural community at Clifford Park but are native and typically do well in floodplains: 

     Northern Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) 

     Wild Raisin/Witherod (Viburnum nudum v. cassinoides) 

     Shadbush / Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis

     Black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)  Not red elderberry whose berries are somewhat toxic.

     Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) 

     Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) 

     Bitternut hickory / Yellowbud hickory (Carya cordiformis) Nuts are to bitter to eat, but the oil from them is delicious.



Other species to consider for extending the riparian buffer and elsewhere in the park

     Bur oaks

     Willow spp, including basket willow

     American plum

     Hardy pecan

     Shellbark hickory


     Red mulberry


     Red maple

     Silky dogwood, other dogwoods



Interesting and Useful Links


Floodplain Restoration Tree Species Identification - photos and descriptions of many species


Silver Maple Floodplain Forest


"Floodplain Forests" Northern Woodlands article


Notes from Clifford Park 4/15/24 meeting prepared for Resilient Hartford Commission


Present: Earl Hatley, Karen Ganey, Birdie Emerson, Maya, Laura Simon, Ruth Fleishman, Rachel Kent and Sally Mansur


  1. Season work party plan: hold one weekend and one weekday work session per month, every third Sunday and every fourth Tuesday

    1. Begin with Sunday, May 19 2-5pm and Tuesday, May 28 4-7pm

    2. West Hartford Farmers’ Market will be running this summer every Tuesday 3:30-6:30pm, starting on June 1

      1. Request to host a tour of the Food Forest tentatively on July 9th

  2. Growing plan

    1. Cover crop islands: continue to build soil by cover crop plantings and chop and drop method for future tree plantings

    2. In-between space: focus in on tilling crabgrass repeatedly, establish diversified, pollinator friendly meadow seeded in the fall. Once established, the meadow will likely need to be mowed occasionally  to keep it from being overgrown with poplars, willows…

    3. Existing fruit trees: continue care; ideally rent wood chipper and create mulch from wood on the site

    4. Riparian buffer: imitate nature and overplant, prioritize Indigenous, edible plants

    5. Nursery: maintain for saplings

    6. Blueberry patch: convert into nursery for native perennials that will then be planted out 

    7. Plant the Abenaki garden area with perennials or self-seeding annuals - comfrey, sunchokes, ground cherries…

    8. *Earl, Emily, and John to walk the site and determine which species we want to welcome in, particularly for the meadow and the riparian buffer

  3. Watering system

    1. We discussed at length whether or not a pump watering system was needed, and the verdict was yes, especially to establish trees in the riparian buffer and the perennial and tree nursery

    2. Option to pump from the roof collection tank OR from the river (especially with riparian species) – either way, we need long hoses 

    3. Earl has been looking into pump options for the Quechee Garden and will send specs to group (including options for mobile and solar-powered pumps)

  4. Signage

    1. Need for simple signage soon!

      1. QR code linking to website so people know what’s going on and what stage of the project we’re in. 

      2. Additionally, we need to have some written explanation (real signs) independent of the QR code – there’s lots of space at the barn where we could display it

    2. Next iteration: add a species list to signage with Abenaki names

  5. Budget

    1. RH budget - ~$1200-1600

      1. Cover cost of pumps and hoses 

      2. Use whatever remains to purchase seed for meadow

      3. Rent wood chipper 

    2. VT Fruit & Nut Tree Grant - $990.37

      1. Trees, cover crops for site, tree fencing and other supplies

    3. Upper Valley Resilience Network Funds - up to $1000

      1. Access to money to pay Indigenous consultants and signage





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