The Rustic Landscape of Rim Village, 1927-1941
Several factors contributed to the soil treatment associated with the naturalization program at Rim Village. The pumice and sandy soils throughout Rim Village prior to 1930 not only created dust and dirt problems for visitors, but were very unstable, shifting and redistributing constantly in the wind. The soil was unacceptable for plant growth because it was very low in nutrients. Because of its texture and composition, the soil could not hold moisture, making it unsuitable for plant growth. After some test plots and trial plantings at the rim, a comprehensive program of soil replacement was developed for all areas slated for revegetation.
The decision to replace the soil, rather than simply amend it, reflected an awareness on the part of the landscape architects of the harsh environment and stresses on any plant materials established there. Preparing the soil for planting required the physical removal of the first 8 to 12 inches of pumice soil. This excavated soil was loaded, by hand, on trucks and hauled away. A layer of manure was added and on top of that, a layer of peat moss was brought in from a site below Munson Valley. On top of the peat, a layer of top soil was spread and graded prior to the actual planting or sodding.
All peat used at the rim was hauled from a large bog located in Munson Valley, about 2 miles below headquarters, just east of the highway. This bog was the third site tapped for the peat; the other two presented difficulties in access and supply. Log and wood planks were used to create a causeway out over the bog some 150 feet, and ditches provided the necessary drainage. The bog provided a “fine, pure sedge peat” to a depth of 8 feet. In the first season, more than seven hundred truck loads of peat were taken from the site (a truck load was approximately 1-1/2 tons) to Rim Village, some three miles away. Each one-way trip took about forty-five minutes.
Top soil was taken from several locations during the three years of naturalization. Most of the sites were located in the general vicinity of the rim, including an area not far from headquarters, on the edge of a meadow. As with the bog, several planks were laid to form a double track to support trucks on the soft soil. One shovel depth was the digging limit for top soil, because beyond that depth, the soil was primarily gravel. In the first year of naturalization and soil treatment, 642 truck loads of top soil were hauled to the rim, 3-1/2 miles away. Finding good top soil became a very difficult problem towards the end of the 1931 planting season. Most of the available top soil throughout the area contained large quantities of sand and gravel, making it less than desirable as a soil amendment. Quantities of top soil were reduced as plantings continued east from the Kiser Studio, where, because of the topography, less soil amendment was required.
In 1930, several experimental ground cover planting methods were undertaken in order to determine the best method of establishment. Two seeding methods were attempted (one test area was near the head of the Crater Wall Trail; the other was near the lodge). One area was raked fine and seeded with native wildflowers and grasses in the fall. This planting resulted in an abundance of “straggly grass,” which was undesirable because there was no “variety in the size or kind.” Another test plot was planted in spring, using a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass and native seed. This planting produced a better effect as a greater variety of grasses were established, including the Kentucky bluegrass and a variety of wildflowers. By the second season, however, the Kentucky bluegrass was described as bunchy and unattractive.
During this test period, several other areas at the rim were planted with sod collected from other areas in the park. After observation, it was evident that this method was most successful, because the appearance could be controlled and the composition was good. Grasses were diverse and included native sedges, which looked like grass but were notably tougher and able to withstand considerable tramping.
All of the other plant materials for the rim were also taken from the park. By 1934, the supply of sod as a material required “continual shifting about” to find enough suitable material. Sod taken from an area one year always filled in with a good coverage the next season, and it was generally believed that “thinning enabled the remaining sod to produce a heavier growth the following year.”
Transplanting: moving large trees
In 1931, the first of several large trees were planted at Rim Village. Individual specimens of hemlock and fir were selected from other areas in the park (primarily from Munson Valley), and prepared for transplanting one to two years in advance.
Once a specimen was selected, it was dug, root-pruned, and boxed. Root-pruning was done by digging a trench around the tree, deep and wide enough to retain the side roots. These roots were then pruned with a sharp tool, insuring a clean cut, and reducing the possibility of disease. The dirt surrounding the tree roots was encased with boards that were strong enough to hold the root mass, and spaced a minimum of 4 inches from the earth ball. This space was important because it allowed new soil to be added at the base and around the sides of the encasement. This new soil provided the growing medium for new root growth, strengthening the root mass as a whole.
When the trees were ready to be moved to the site, the encasement was excavated. The tap roots were cut and a bottom added to the base of the box. The box itself was made of 2 x 4s and 4 x 4s. Several heavy planks were placed along the bottom of the box, at right angles to provide structural support and facilitate the attachment of chains and cables for lifting the box out of the hole. The trees were removed from the hole by a hoist, and loaded onto another truck for transport to the site. The same hoist was used to place the tree in the new hole.
The planting hole was 6 feet wider than the box and 1-foot deeper. Good soil was added to the bottom of the hole prior to placing the tree, and enough was added to bring the tree to the proper height. The tree was then lowered into the hole and the boards were removed. The hole was filled with good soil, tamped firmly, and watered as the new soil was added.
Newly transplanted trees were protected from wind and sun with a canvas cover. In some cases, a wooden frame was constructed around the tree to prevent excess snow weight from crushing the tree and to ensure proper ventilation and moisture. This practice was used only in the early stages of the transplant. Experimentation had shown that it was not a good practice to brace newly planted trees through the winter with guy wires because the wires prevented the trees from bending in “a natural fashion,” which was important to the general health and adaptability of the specimen.
The success rate for the transplanted specimens over the three-year program was very high. Two years into the program, Merel Sager reported that none of the trees were lost “either by root-pruning or transplanting,” and all had put on new growth.