Caldwell Park STAR Neighborhood’s Native Meadow is flourishing! Funded by a STAR mini-grant in 2021, the neighborhood transformed a 25’x75’ grass area into a beautiful meadow with native plants.
Here are the steps they took and their lessons learned:
Neighbors of Caldwell Park created a proposal in March 2021 and presented it to the Municipality of Princeton to receive approval for the meadow project. Here are a few key excerpts from the proposal:
“Caldwell Park is a relatively forgotten grassy lawn in Princeton surrounded by homes on Caldwell Drive, Bertrand Drive, and Herrontown Road. Immediate neighbors enjoy the view it provides and use it as an occasional gathering place.”
“This neighborhood ultimately drains into the Millstone River, which is notorious for flooding and blocking River Road. The above topography map, prepared by stormwater specialists at the Watershed Institute, describes a plan for Caldwell Park that can help alleviate downstream flooding. This proposal calls for a border of “woody plants” (trees and shrubs) and a central meadow of native herbaceous plants. Together these strategies can reduce flooding. For example, by converting one acre of our 3.4-acre park to meadow and one acre to forest, Caldwell Park could absorb 1 million gallons of stormwater a year. Replacing the forgotten lawn with native trees and flowers can also provide habitat for local birds and butterflies, and enhance the park’s beauty.”
In the summer of 2021, neighbors rolled out a plastic tarp to prepare a 25’x75′ area of Caldwell Park for a meadow.
Compost & Plant Natives
Neighbors pulled up the tarp in the fall and smoothed out a 5-6″ layer of compost.
Seedlings and seeds of three different native plants were planted: Purple coneflowers (seeds & plugs), blazing stars (seeds & plugs), and coreopsis (plugs only).
Remove Invasives & Plant Natives
In the spring of 2022, neighbors pulled up an invasion of the non-native pennycress and waited for the previously planted native plants to arrive.
In the fall of 2022, in one half of the meadow, neighbors pulled out grass that had taken over and planted a variety of plugs provided by the municipality. Also seeded heavily with Purple Coneflower and some Black-Eyed Susan.
- Solarization was challenging in this location. Deer and other animals managed to rip the sheeting, and the wind scattered the pieces. Not only was it a mess to clean up, but the effectiveness of this method was limited to areas that remained covered.
- Our second initiative to rid the area of grass, which was to smother the grass with compost, also had its challenges, as it brought an invasion of pennycress and other weeds. After pulling out the pennycress, grass flourished and took over.
- In retrospect, a cover crop such as rye or another early grower, would’ve been most beneficial.
- Last summer, seeding aggressively after pulling up grass, appears to be the trick that worked, and that is how we will proceed.
If your neighborhood is interested in establishing something similar in your nearby park, the Municipality’s Open Space Manager can provide details on how to draft a proposal.
Stop by and enjoy Caldwell Park in person! To get to the meadow, follow the gravel path off of Bertrand Drive near the intersection with Concord Lane. After you enter the park, the meadow is straight ahead, as suggested by the marker on this map.