Project in Process: What’s Sod Doing in the Parking Lot?

 

Signs_ProjectinProcess_Trails2Making Merck Forest a more visitor-friendly space has been a top priority this year.

As such, the parking lot is getting a little bit of an overhaul.

We’re closing off the smaller parking area to cars. What? you say…

Well, let me explain. You see, so many visitors come here and drive loops around the parking area while looking for the right area to place their vehicle. Sometimes in the summer, people cannot find the large parking lot, the one meant for daily and overnight visitors, because the trees block the view into the space. Often, the passenger will bounce out of their idling car and run into the Visitor Center. “Where do we park?” they’ll ask.

This sod was taken from the farm trail and will be used to revegetate part of the parking area.
This sod was taken from the farm trail and will be used to revegetate part of the parking area.

The installation of new signs last year seemed to ease some of the struggle, but overall, the parking lot setup is just not intuitive enough for most people to easily navigate the space.

And, when they come to visit, they don’t want their first minutes here to be filled with confusion. It doesn’t start the trip off on the right foot.

We hoped the signs were a first step toward mitigating the traffic confusion, and then this past summer, Chris worked with various groups to make a new trail that runs from the large lot to the VC.

It looks pretty snazzy and more foot traffic seems to be following the route, but it still doesn’t solve the difficulties of people knowing where to park: big lot, small lot, on the grass by the Visitor Center, somewhere under a tree?

The smaller “short term” lot seems to add to the general confusion. It’s not large enough to hold more than five cars comfortably, and with the introduction of the new pathway, even fewer cars can park there, unless the path is blocked.

So, the smaller lot is being revegetated, and all cars will be directed into the larger lot–hopefully in a concise, easy way.

Becca raking the compost across the loosened gravel. Compost went on top of the gravel to provide the sod with some good soil to grow.
Becca raking the compost across the loosened gravel. Compost went on top of the gravel to provide the sod with some good soil to grow.

The revegetation is ongoing. That sod mentioned in the last post, two flat beds worth from the completion of the farm trail, was hauled down to the VC last Thursday. After dragging up the compacted gravel, our staff worked to lay down composted soil and then place the sod on top of it. Leaves and other detritus were added into the mix.

The area still needs some more work. More sod may come from the addition of a small trail to the new coop at the farm.

The borders of the newly vegetated area were filled in first. Leaves will be raked in to cover other areas.
The borders of the newly vegetated area were filled in first. Leaves will be raked in to cover other areas.

Hopefully, with one large open lot for parking, instead of several tinier not-quite-parking-spaces scattered around, visitors will feel more comfortable when they come up the driveway.