Townsend River Walk and Arboretum Wins Stewardship Award – submitted by Allison Pearson

The Townsend River Walk and Arboretum (TRWA) was awarded the Dee Lidvall Sustainable Stewardship Award by Keep Blount Beautiful (KBB) at the Foothills Beautification Awards Ceremony.

The TRWA was formed in 2004 when Old Highway 73 was abandoned along the banks of the Little River. Mayor Bob Russell and his wife Elaine, both gardeners, proposed a trail along the river and Tuckaleechee Garden Club accepted the challenge of transforming the old highway bed.

Fast forward 15 years, Chair of the TRWA, Mark Seder, recently told The Daily Times, “The invasive thing was a nightmare. You couldn’t even see the river.” Seder, who is not afraid of a challenge, sought new ways to control the non-native invasive plants at the TRWA. The most difficult invasives the club battled included Winter Creeper, English Ivy, Multiflora Rose, Chinese Privet, Bush Honeysuckle, Princess Tree, and Mimosa.

Under Seder’s leadership, more aggressive techniques to control invasive plants were adopted. Tree wrenches were used to remove invasive plants by the roots, rather than cutting back. To avoid spraying chemicals where drift can cause damage to beneficial plants and keeping river health in mind, the club adopted a small bottle with a felt-top dauber applying herbicide only to the cut stem of the invasive plant.

Within 3 years of adopting more aggressive non-native, plant removal techniques, the native wildflowers and plants are returning. Blue phlox carpeted the forest floor in the spring, along with trillium, mayapple, golden ragwort, Virginia blue bells, jack-in-the pulpit, and a proliferation of ferns. The native paw-paw trees bloomed and set fruit for the first time.

Seder leads the TRWA efforts by example, providing over 300 hours of volunteer work at the TRWA in 2021. He provides the physical labor, as well as maintaining the TRWA website. He has begun executing a strategic plan for the TRWA. The stairs have been rebuilt and the pollinator garden refurbished. The TRWA recently hosted guided educational tours and nature walks for National Garden Week.

The Dee Lidvall Sustainable Stewardship Award is a tribute to the hard work of Tuckaleechee Garden Club, spanning from the founding Russells to the current TRWA Chair, Mark Seder, and all club members who have contributed tirelessly to the TRWA.

(l-r) Mark Seder, Chair, TRWA; Brittney Whipple, Keep Blount Beautiful; Martha Frink Tuckaleechee Garden Club member and dedicated TRWA volunteer.