The history of McDaniel Meadows - Part 2
By Anita Rosen
Photos by Anita Rosen
|Pathways through grassy areas encourage visitors to explore.|
As dark as things looked for the Meadows mid-2002, the situation soon grew worse.
On Sept. 17, the champion of the Meadows, Bryant McDaniel, suddenly passed away. McDaniel’s presence was sorely missed throughout Big Canoe, perhaps nowhere as much as at the Meadows.
Then, on Nov. 11, a tornado struck, uprooting or snapping off 150-200 trees in the Meadows.
The McDaniel Meadows Advisory Committee did not meet for a year.
During that period, the POA cleared much of the downed timber in the upper part of the Meadows and did a controlled burn before seeding with native grasses and wildflowers. But just after the seed was spread, the area was hit with rain so heavy, it washed gravel off paths.
The seed didn’t stand a chance.
At its first meeting following the tornado, in the fall of 2003, the committee learned a large section of the central meadow had been designated for a dog park.
“Unfortunately, the site was the only large, level meadow, the only one in which native grasses had seeded well, and the one in which bluebirds were nesting repeatedly,” said Co-chair Verne Newhouse. The committee sent a notice of dissension but was informed the decision was made, North American Land Trust (NALT) had given its approval and construction would go forward.
With the committee’s three-year tenure drawing to an end, Big Canoe’s General Manager Troy Ledbetter asked the group to consider another term. The members agreed but met sporadically.
|Sumac suffers from deer damage in McDaniel Meadows.|
More upheavals came. Following the termination of POA Financial Officer Cary Smith, Ledbetter, the committee’s main contact with the POA, resigned. The coup de grace was delivered about a year later when a list of POA committees was published in Smoke Signals: The McDaniel Meadows Advisory Committee was not listed.
Conservation Task Force
In 2008, the Conservation Task Force was established by the POA to develop and implement long-range plans for environmental issues in Big Canoe. Subcommittees were set up, including one dedicated to McDaniel Meadows. Bert Loftman (chairman), Gordon Griffith, Randy Lewis, Theresa Hartz Rasmussen, Lin Pollard and Verne Newhouse made up this group.
|These innovative, organic deer repellents are made by Walter Bland.|
In response to a request for guidance from Task Force Chairman David Holty, Newhouse wrote, “Bryant McDaniel’s dream was of a native grass meadow, not a 30-plus acre park … a natural meadow of moderate to tall native grasses … With almost no care at all for around 10 years, the Meadows has seemingly gone to weed.”
Newhouse suggested contacting NALT or independent experts, burning the Meadows, applying herbicides and clearing the ground without disturbing the soil deep enough to stimulate the growth of noxious weeds. Newhouse felt it would take four to five years to establish the Meadows properly.
”It will be a time- and labor-intensive and expensive job. It will produce a gorgeous native wild grass meadow,” wrote Newhouse.
With a goal of restoring the Meadows, the subcommittee developed a plan that included mowing, burning and eradicating unwanted plants in favor of those deemed desirable. Committee members quickly concluded constant maintenance was required or the area would revert to its natural forested condition.
Expert help was sought: Pickens County Extension Agent Rick Jasperse, NALT conservation biologist Lee Echols and Walter Bland of Rock Spring Farm were consulted. Bland’s business specializes in native plant stock, particularly grasses.
According to Bland, restoration of the Meadows would “support healthy populations of many species of plants and animals endemic to the southern Appalachians.” He recommended eradication of the invasives taking over the Meadows and preservation of the rare sphagnum bog.
To complete these goals, Bland suggested an annual budget of $5,000, not including normal POA maintenance expenses, be allocated to the project. He expected within five to seven years the Meadows would be “as self-sustaining as possible.”
Given the apprehension fire brings in this environment, tilling and herbicide applications were the best second choice in controlling the invasives. Preparation was made to spray the fescue, with the exception of a border along the walkways. The POA Maintenance Department tilled selected areas and erected low-profile silt fencing to control erosion. Bland recommended a second tillage in late winter and also advised consulting a landscape architect and water/stream bank expert.
McDaniel Meadows today
By April 2010, subcommittee member Gordon Griffith noted the Meadows was “a-changing.” Griffith, frequently spotted working in the Meadows, gives credit to Bland and his crew for the planting and heavy lifting.
The area to the right of the parking lot was the first to be tackled. Attempts to clear the Lespedeza and brush by hand were unsuccessful, but several sprayings of the deep roots of these plants may result in their eradication.
|Broom sedge dominates the view of McDaniel Meadows from Wilderness Parkway.|
The front field is the focus of most of the current work where the big bluestem is being replaced with broom sedge and nimble grass. Selected trees have been planted and cardinal flower, wild bergamot, mist flower and mountain mint are being encouraged. The four-foot swath of cut grass is being maintained close by the walkways, and other paths have been cut into the meadow and forest areas to encourage exploration.
Along the trails, mountain laurels have been planted, oaks transplanted and red maples, blueberries and bushy bluestem encouraged to form a more attractive border than the straight line once there. Among the projects backed by donations from Wildflower Bunch Garden Club are the Viburnum planted near the Wilderness parking area.
The sphagnum bog, still home to the coal skink, is doing well. American hollies and horse sugars are being encouraged there.
A birding area is being developed in one of the upper meadows. Spicebush, elderberry, Fothergilla, black chokeberry, winterberry, Viburnums and buttonbush have been planted.
A fern area off Yanegwa Path can be accessed by following the trails. Bicycles are allowed on paths and dogs can be walked on leash or let to play off-leash in the dog park.
There are no current plans to work on the McElroy home site.
Gordon Griffith noted, “Our two biggest problems right now are deer and drought.” Bland has tried several methods to control deer damage but has not had a lot of success to date. His latest invention, which uses a room deodorizer hidden under a few pieces of wood erected like a roof, is being tried around the sumac in the birding area. Deer have rutted on these plants, snapping off the twigs and girdling the shrubs.
Today, as McDaniel Meadows continues its transformation and rehabilitation, visitors are met with a blending of Bryant McDaniel’s original vision with features that accommodate the needs of the community. It is the culmination of the generosity of the Big Canoe Company, the commitment of the POA and the untiring dedication of both the original Advisory Committee and the current subcommittee.
Resources include: The McDaniel Meadows Advisory Committee Minutes; Big Canoe POA Board of Directors Minutes; Big Canoe McDaniel Meadows Park Habitat Restoration Plan 7/09, 12/09; North American Land Trust Baseline Documentation December 2000; Smoke Signals archives; Significant Public Documents of Big Canoe Subdivision from 1972; and interviews with Verne and Joyce Newhouse, Gordon Griffiths, Bert Loftman and Nancy Zak. Special thanks to Judy Kaufman, Debbie Pickett and Ann Young.
Smoke Signals, March 2013