Great Barrington - On September 28th, twelve dedicated volunteers donned work gloves, grabbed tools and got to work to save a large red oak tree located between River Walk and the old Searles School. This effort was led by River Walk, a project of Great Barrington Land Conservancy. Arborist, Tom Ingersoll led this effort with an explanation about the steps needed to support tree health. Large trees have an extensive and shallow root system. Compaction from vehicles and competition with grass can stress wide-spreading roots and threaten the health of trees. Biotic complexities at the soil level, developed over eons, are essential to consider. These include the interrelationships between roots, fungus, healthy bacteria and other soil dwelling organisms. After Tom's talk, the hard work began. The cement-like soil was aerated with a pneumatic drill. Volunteers shoveled and raked out compost to provide nutrients and organic microbes. A layer of cardboard was covered by mulch to eliminate grass, prevent future soil compaction, and aid in the absorption of rainwater. Now the roots of this 75-year-old red oak tree can connect with the air, water and nutrients it needs to thrive. In the future, selective pruning and the planting of a supportive understory community of shrubs and perennials is recommended. "This effort was made possible only through community collaboration." explains Christine Ward, Director of River Walk, "We are extremely grateful to Tom Ingersoll for contributing his expertise and equipment and to Ward’s Nursery and Garden Center for the donation of mulch and fertilizer. The town of Great Barrington pitched in with the loan of the compressor. And none of this could have happened without the hard work of dedicated community volunteers representing the Great Barrington Tree Committee and Great Barrington Land Conservancy." Learn how to support future conservation efforts, go to www.gbriverwalk.org and www.GBLand.org. Community support is essential to the care for our local environment.