You can help plant some willows and bushes at Skalkaho Bend Park in Hamilton this month. The "Roots Against Erosion" project is moving swiftly at the city's newest park. Volunteers will have some chances to help stick some trees and bushes in the ground along the park project area.

Crews have almost finished preparing the swale for the new growth and were completing the temporary fences, which will protect the new sprouts from wildlife for the first five years of their growth.

Wednesday, March 31, is the first major planting day for the Bitter Root Water Forum, which has been the main organizer for the Roots plan. There will be another opportunity on Tuesday, April 6th, and Sunday, April 18. A special planting session will be on Earth Day on April 22. Each planting day will last from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To sign up as a volunteer, contact the Bitter Root Water Forum. Ellie is handling the registrations at bswc.member@brwaterforum.org. She also has more details about being part of the planting crew.

The reason for the project is that the Bitterroot River, alongside the park, has been migrating to the east, into the park. Estimates put the erosion as about an acre of land in the park area every 5 years. The City of Hamilton Public Works Department and the Water Forum are planting willows and other vegetation to reduce the erosion.

Geum Environmental Consulting of Hamilton designed the project, after analysis of Applied Geomorphology out of Bozeman. They've been excavating a long, shallow swale where willows and other native plants such as dogwood, cottonwood and serviceberry will help control erosion and also maintain a nice view. The project would also provide future protection of the C&C Ditch, which is on the east side of the new park.

The plan would require a growth period of at least 10 years to provide a good buffer.
Though it looks bigger, the affected area is only about one percent of the total park area. You can find out more information at the Bitter Root Forum website.

Pre-planting at a Skalkaho Bend swale of the new project. (Steve Fullerton, Townsquare Media)

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