WINFIELD - Skunk cabbage growing near a stream behind South Carroll High School provided the first clue that the campus was once wetlands.
"Skunk cabbage is usually an indication of wetlands," said senior Kerry Tebbs, a member of the science research class that made the discovery. "The wetlands were pretty much destroyed when the school was built."
Donna Baker, Carroll County state forester, confirmed that the sprawling campus, built in the 1960s, was once wetlands.
The find has given the school's science and environmental clubs, which conduct recycling programs, another project. Students hope to preserve what's left of the wetlands, situated behind the high school off Route 26.
"We're going to work to restore the wetlands," said Robert Foor-Hogue, Science Club adviser and South Carroll science teacher.
Students already have cleaned up two dumps in the wooded area east of Mayeski Park, adjacent to the school. Last week they planted a buffer line of scotch and white pines and deciduous trees around the wetlands.
Kerry said the trees will prevent soil erosion and stabilize stream runoff in the wetlands area.
"The trees we're planting are all wetlands species," she said.
Lee Immler, social studies teacher and Environmental Club adviser, said the buffer of trees should also prevent further dumping.
The trees were planted as part of Maryland's "Tree-mendous" tree program. Immler said the clubs received a $600 state grant to purchase trees. The clubs also solicited buyers, such as Colleen Deitrich, for additional trees.
Deitrich, whose 17 -year-old son, Eric, is a South Carroll junior, purchased a tree in memory of her father, who died about a year ago.
"I think it's a neat idea," said Deitrich, who attended the planting to see if she could find her tree. "I'm excited that the tree is going to be in our community. Buying it also helped our school."
Immler estimated that 70 trees would be planted around the wetlands. Some 40 students and community volunteers worked in groups to plant the trees. They also planned to paint a recycling trailer for white paper.
Amy Kowalski, a Sykesville junior, was among the students dressed in jeans and T-shirts who helped dig and plant.
"I'm really glad that I came today," said Kowalski, a member of the Environmental Club. "I feel good about doing this."
Students like Kerry, who participated in a tree-planting seminar at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, coordinated supervised projects at South Carroll,
Manchester Elementary and the Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center.
Some 1,000 seedlings were planted at Manchester Elementary School with the help of fourth-graders. At Hashawha, off Route 97 north of Westminster, 100 trees were planted.
"It's gone real well," Immler said. "The rain over the weekend really helped us. It's made for pretty easy digging."
Besides planting trees and cleaning up the wetlands site, students also plan to do water-quality testing of the stream and make it part of the state's "Save Our Stream Survey."
Kerry said the clubs want to build a nature study center at the site so students throughout the county can learn about wetlands.