The area of the Cavanaugh Access that now has a nature trail on it was once a marshy wetland that was changed to allow farming (celery and maybe lettuce), and further changed when a railroad was constructed down through the middle of it. Some of the vegetation that is there now is native, but some of it isn’t native. It isn’t native to Pennsylvania or perhaps even North America, but it’s sure there now!
One way to try to control and in some cases eliminate non-native vegetation is through controlled burns. These are not wildfires, but fires set during specific weather conditions in specific times of the year to add fire back into an ecosystem. This fire can allow native vegetation to re-set and possibly remove non-native vegetation. Fire was part of the ecosystem in Pennsylvania for thousands of years and isn’t as common as it once was.
As humans we have built things (houses, communities, etc.) and changed land cover (there’s a lot less forest cover than there used to be) so that fires are extinguished. In some places and in some instances a controlled fire can help an ecosystem re-start and help plants do what they are naturally designed to do.
The fire at the Cavanaugh Access earlier this week was a controlled burn conducted by the Bureau of Forestry and their trained staff. They train their staff to both use fire to manage land and fight fires when it’s accidentally started (lightening strikes, wayward campfire, etc.). One of the major causes of forest fires in Pennsylvania, however, is debris burning. A careless person burning trash or yard waste can be responsible for causing wildfires that burn thousands of acres of valuable Pennsylvania forests.
As you travel the Pine Creek Trail past the property, make it a point to watch how the property changes. Pay attention to when the property starts to get green and compare it to other areas along that stretch of the trail. Watch what vegetation comes back in, and what doesn’t. Enjoy watching nature do what it does best.