A few apple trees growing here have inspired a plan to create a fruit orchard in this sheltered area between Battery Garesche and the multipurpose field. While many of the hardwoods and pines along Merriman Road will be preserved and the existing apple trees renovated, most of this heavily invaded site will be bush-hogged to provide adequate sunlight and air circulation for the future orchard. It will also restore views of this fascinating battery from the field.
The site will be graded and seeded with a cover crop this spring – then periodically mowed – to suppress weeds and invasive plants, nematodes, and soil-borne fungi, and to increase soil organic matter.
Local growers experienced with heritage fruits will be consulted for horticultural guidance, and to provide the apple trees. Areas of the site that receive less direct sunlight will be planted with several native understory and woodland edge species of fruiting trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers. Some possibilities include red mulberry, common persimmon, pawpaw, saskatoon berry, elderberry, American plum, beach plum, various viburnum species, highbush & lowbush blueberry, and strawberry. This site has significant educational and ornamental potential, and we look forward to sharing the fruit and knowledge gained through growing these plants in the Park!
- Battery Garesche (1906): Across Merriman Rd to the east of the Fruit Orchard, Battery Garesche was initially built to accommodate two 6″ DC guns. It was converted to an AA battery after World War I, supporting two 3″ guns. Still intact are the magazines, emplacements, the latrine, and the blocks on its parapet.
- Stone Steps (ca 1930): Leading up from Merriman Road to the National Guard Camp (now a multipurpose field). A key connecting point between the Green and Multipurpose Field.
- National Guard Enlisted Tent Pads (1930): Now mostly a lawn used as a multipurpose field, a few of the concrete pads can still be seen just south of the lawn.
Please visit the Park History page for more information about Fort Williams’ military past.
Featured Problematic Plant: autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
Introduced from Eurasia in the mid-19th century, autumn olive is a shrubby tree with wavy-edged leaves with silvery undersides, clusters of small, fragrant, yellowish-cream flowers in spring, and speckled red berries in late summer and fall. Young branches have a speckled orange-brown color and are often armed with sharp thorns.
Until recently it was widely planted in reclamation projects due to its incredible adaptability to highly averse conditions, its fast growth rate, its nitrogen-fixing roots, its draw for pollinators and its value for birds and mammals (though now considered to have been overrated).
Many of the attributes that made autumn olive desirable for reclamation projects are also what has enabled it to successfully invade and out-compete nearby areas of native vegetation.
Featured Beneficial Plant: apple tree (Malus sp.)
Apple trees first arrived in America as seeds with the first European settlers in the early 1600s, and the fruit was most often used by Colonials and early Americans to make hard cider and livestock feed.
Grafting is required to reproduce a tree with fruit chosen for specific characteristics, and it is estimated that 14,000 distinct varieties of apples were grown by Americans in the 19th century. Although large-scale commercial production for mass distribution has since reduced commonly-available varieties to less than a dozen, many antique or heirloom varieties are enjoying a resurgence among small-scale farmers.
Apple trees are found throughout Fort Williams Park – some perhaps descending from the 19th-century orchard trees that predate the Fort, and all likely planted by the numerous bird and animal species that consume the fruit.