Volunteers, big and small, mucked through the mud to plant almost 500 native trees along Willow Creek in Blandon.

'Love being outside, love getting dirty, love the trees, nature, and helping the community,' said Kurt Warren, Blandon, who lives down the street from the creek.

His son, Zach, 11, a Fleetwood Middle School student, agreed.

'I like getting wet,' said Zach, who enjoyed getting down on his hands and knees in the mud, and some times, stuck in the mud.

'We're here to restore the habitat along Willow Creek,' said Fleetwood Middle School science teacher Linda Wood. 'We found out that this is one of the exceptional fresh water trout streams in this part of Pennsylvania, so we wanted to do our part to restore it.'

Volunteers planted 487 native trees and took seeds from last year's native flower garden and dispersed the seeds along the creek bank to restore the bank to prevent erosion, said Wood.

'As you can see from my students, they love playing in the mud and they did a great job,' said Wood.

Fleetwood student Hannah Hetrick, 13, and her siblings Grace, 11, and Wyatt, 8, live in Fleetwood but spend a lot of time playing by the creek. They feel that planting the trees will be a benefit to the environment.

'It's going to be so beautiful,''said Hannah.

They were also covered in mud from planting trees.

'I like the mud,' said Grace.

The Hetrick siblings found the project to be fun.

'I liked everybody working in a group and planting all these trees. It's fun,' said Grace.

'So many kids really want to make our environment healthier and get out and enjoy nature,''said Fleetwood Middle School Librarian Vanessa Moore.

She liked that ages and various groups working together for the project.

'I'think it shows how much you can do with cooperation and your passion.'

Participants included about 40 Fleetwood Middle School students, about a dozen Fleetwood High School students in the Outdoor Club, local families, Maidencreek Township Supervisors, Park and Recreation and Road Crew, PA Fish and Boat Commission, Maidencreek Watershed Association, Berks County Conservancy, Kutztown University and Trout Unlimited of Wyomissing.

Maidencreek Township Manager Diane Hollenbach explained that Maidencreek Township applied for and received two grants, with guidance throughout the process provided by John Buzzar of the PA Fish and Boat Commission.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $50,000 grant for the expansion of brook trout within the Willow Creek and covers in stream habitat placement, riparian planting, educational signs and stream and fish monitoring.

'The project will enable the brook trout to populate the stream without stocking, improve water quality, stabilize the stream bank and restore the riparian forest,' said Hollenbach.

Also, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area awarded a Schuylkill River Restoration Grant of $30,000 for planting native trees and shrubs, stabilizing the stream bank, printing brochures to promote awareness and installing two sign kiosks, said Hollenbach.

Larry Lloyd of the Berks County Conservancy explained that planting the trees will provide shade to the stream to keep the water cool for the trout. The project also included stabilizing the banks to cut down on erosion.

Lloyd said Maidencreek Township dug all of the holes, bought the trees and brought them to the site. Volunteers, including students, families, Conservancy members and Trout Unlimited, to name a few, spent a Saturday morning planting the trees.

Jeff Grim of Trout Unlimited said they were there improving a class A trout stream, which is home to breeding wild brook trout. The shade will help protect the trout during the hot summer months.

'Everybody did a remarkable job,''said Lloyd. 'Getting people to buy into their resources... saying 'this is important to our community.'

'We cannot thank the volunteers enough and Larry and John have been so instrumental in this project from beginning to end,' said Hollenbach.

Follow Lisa Mitchell on Twitter at twitter.com/kutztownpatriot.

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