Crunchy snow and gray skies covered the 800 acres of the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) today, Jan. 17, as a handful of volunteers and PERT staff worked to pull invasive vines from sleeping trees.
The temperature never quite reached past 26 degrees during this MLK Day event at PERT, which took place at its Huntingdon Valley headquarters.
However, the frigid conditions and tough task ahead didn't stop volunteers from turning their day off into a day on for community service.
"Even now it's beautiful," Keith Colquitt, a Jenkintown resident, said.
Colquitt found out about the PERT volunteer opportunity through his biology professor at Penn State Abington, where he is studying secondary education.
He said that he jumped at the service opportunity for the experience of volunteering in the unique setting.
"Five years ago I didn't know this was here," Matt Clark, PERT assistant steward, said. "I lived here all my life and didn't know how how this place could go unoticed all this time."
As a Philadelphia native, and strong outdoors-advocate, Clark said that he could appreciate the work PERT is doing in trying to preserve pristine green open space.
"I think it's worth preserving, because it's so unique," Clark said. "In the fairer months, there's a good chance to see a variety of wildlife."
Clark led the volunteers in the PERT service event. He showed them how non-native and invasive vines, such as porcelain berry vine and wild grape, could strangle and kill a native tree.
Arming the volunteers with hand-loppers, Clark demonstrated how to cut and pull down the vines, some of which grew to over 15-feet up a particularly burdened Norway Spruce tree.
"You don't have to gingerly pull these vines," Clark said, ripping down the last bits of vine, and revealing the difficulty of the task at hand.
He said PERT is in a year-round battle against the invasive and non-native species of plants that plague the nature preserve's hundreds of acres, which includes a stretch into Upper Moreland. This is why, Clark explained, PERT hosts several clean-up days and volunteer opportunities throughout the year.
"Hard work and sunshine is good for the soul," he said with a smile.
PERT welcomes all volunteers, who come in a wide range of ages and capabilities.
Jacob Danko, 11, an Upper Moreland School District Middle School student, volunteered a few hours of his day off with his sister Callie, 7, and their mother Lori.
When asked what his favorite part of the PERT volunteer experience was, Jacob had a ready answer.
"Probably ripping out the huge vines," he said.
According to Lori, the family often volunteers at PERT in order to continue removing the invasive and non-native plants.
"We wanted to volunteer for MLK Day, and this is our favorite place to come," Lori said. "Everything about wildlife and nature is what we're all about."
Although the volunteers had stayed for over three hours in the snow and cold, working hard to pull the vines, Clark estimated that only .25 acres was able to be cleared, which emphasized the daunting task of maintaining over 800-acres of PERT land.
"The best we can do is arrest it," Clark said of the vines. "I personally had a good time."
For more information, visit the PERT website.