Girl Scout’s project beautifies Lincoln Trail

In the dead of winter, high school senior and Girl Scout Haley Yackshaw looked out on Lincoln Trail and began to imagine something beautiful that fellow walkers would admire and where local wildlife would find homes, food and protection.

Yackshaw, 17, then set out to complete the steps for creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat along the Lincoln Trail where Rosewood Drive intersects it.

“The trail runs along people’s back yards so I thought a garden would look nice,” she explained. She conducted a great deal of research about wildlife gardens and the various elements that offer food and shelter for birds, a particular favorite of Yackshaw, but also small mammals and insects. She developed a plan to install perennials on a plot approximately 20 by 20 feet. She presented it to her Girl Scout Council for consideration of a Gold Award, Girl Scouts highest honor, as well as to Sheffield Lake City Council.

The evening she presented at council, fellow Sheffield Lake resident Gary Tollett was in the audience. He stepped forward with a donation to cover the cost of a portion of needed plant material and soil. Yackshaw’s family donated the rest.

Dirt is something non-gardeners might not think much about. For Yackshaw, who comes from a family of avid gardeners, it’s a big deal. As a matter of fact, dirt along the trail path posed her biggest challenge because it was filled with debris ranging from a rolled up carpet to golf balls, and worse. Once the debris was cleared away, the remaining cleansed dirt was turned, or mixed, and freshly purchased soil, including cow manure, was added to prepare for installation of plant materials.

The weekend of October 5, Yackshaw and volunteers planted a wide range of perennials and shrubs, including aster, bee balm, black eyed Susan, hyssop, coneflowers, cup plant, coreopsis, goldenrod. milkweed, winter berry, Indian grass, prairie dropseed, northern sea oats, hawthorn and crabapple.

They also added a rock pile and Yackshaw created a dead hedge which provides nesting spots and safety for small birds like chickadees, finch and sparrows.

She laughed as she explained troop members, who often pitch in to help each other out, were unable to help because it was homecoming weekend in North Ridgeville, the troop’s home base. However, members from Hiker Girls of Northeast Ohio and her troop leader were on hand to assist.

As for the selected plant material, Yackshaw said, in additin to her research at the library and online, she visited local greenhouses to look for plants and get advice from employees about a plant’s likes and dislikes.

She’s monitoring the garden as winter draws near, looking for signs the roots of the plants are beginning to spread into the soil, which, she said, is necessary to ensure they can survive winter cold.

The garden has earned designation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat from the National Wildlife Federation. A plaque will be installed shortly recognizing the site. Yackshaw is now in the process of completing a report, including photos of the plants that have been installed, and a reflection on the project. An interview with Scout leadership follows and, if the project is accepted, she will earn a Gold Award at next Summer’s regional Girl Scout convention. She’s also completing online classes with Odella and then is looking forward to starting college here in Ohio to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Mayor Dennis Bring has been in touch with Yackshaw throughout her planning process and had high praise for her initiative. “It’s nice to see young people take the initiative to do a project like that.” Bring hopes this project will encourage residents to consider planting memorial gardens along the Lincoln Trail. He noted it could be something as simple as a flowering crabapple tree or butterfly bush or a garden similar to Yackshaw’s. A plaque would be placed at the site honoring a designated family, family member or friend and he plans to promote the idea next spring.