Anyone who has been around Allatoona knows how important volunteers are to conserving natural resources around the lake. The Great Lake Allatoona Cleanup (GLAC) and the Lake Allatoona Association’s (LAA) Lake Warriors are prime examples of volunteers coming together for environmental concerns. Furthermore, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) volunteers have been instrumental in assisting with the Allatoona Lake Native Pollinator and Habitat Restoration Program.
To celebrate Earth Day this year, USACE staff, partners and volunteers will be attending a tree-grafting workshop, held by Josh Fuder from the University of Georgia Cherokee Extension, at the Allatoona Volunteer Village. Approximately 100 apple tree rootstocks will be grafted and grown at the on-site hoop house for one season. In 2024, volunteers, staff and partners will plant the trees into a newly established research orchard, to help students and professors reintroduce different apple species into the northwest Georgia area.
This is not all that USACE volunteers and partners have accomplished in the past few months. In October, USACE rangers and volunteers joined Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists and LAA volunteers in planting 1,000 water willows and 100 maidencanes in Rose Creek. The same groups came together again in February, along with volunteers from E3 Bassmasters and Marietta Bassmasters, to plant 380 buttonbushes near Sweetwater Day Use Area. More than 300 of the plants were cultivated in USACE’s hoop house and maintained throughout the year by volunteers and park rangers. These aquatic plants not only are used for erosion control on the shoreline, but also as beneficial fish habitats for native fish species in the lake.
Another effort, now in its seventh year at Allatoona, is the Bamboo Fish Attractor Program. During late winter, USACE rangers and volunteers cut bamboo on government property to create the attractors. The environmental importance of this program is twofold. First, bamboo is an invasive species that is removed from the area. Second, the bamboo then is recycled and used in making fish structures and habitats. Additionally, small tubes of bamboo are cut and used in the creation of bee houses, produced by the volunteers, which also are used in the pollinator program.
Finally, USACE staff planted trees during late winter. The Nature Conservancy donated 250 longleaf pines that rangers were able to get in the ground in February for Georgia Arbor Day. Silky dogwoods, flowering redbuds and persimmon trees, maintained by rangers and volunteers in the hoop house through the winter, also were planted in early March. These native trees have a profound role in the environment — providing habitat and food for wildlife, bearing fruit and seeds, and harboring pollinating insects that help sustain ecosystem biodiversity.
Volunteers play a major role in helping USACE and our partners maintain a healthy environment around the lake. With the help of the community and volunteers, projects such as these will continue to thrive and grow in number.
– Christopher Purvis is lead ranger at Lake Allatoona over partnerships, volunteers and project security. He has been a ranger on Allatoona Lake since 2005.