CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Ohio — It's harvest time in northeast Ohio. At Cuyahoga Valley National Park, volunteers are busy filling bags with the fruits of nature, seeds — all in an effort to assist Mother Nature. 

“Today we are working with volunteers to collect native dogwood seeds. These seeds will be used to grow our own native dogwood trees that will eventually be planted throughout the park,” said Cami Miller, Community Volunteer Ambassador at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“I love to bring volunteers to the park, especially with everything that’s going on in the world,” she added. “Our parks have been heavily used since COVID as a place of solace and comfort.”

Henry Gulich is one of the volunteers who helps out. He's a retired engineer and has spent most of his life in public service, including 10 years as the Public Service Director for the City of Euclid. 

“It’s hardly inconvenient for me to come down here and help on a weekday, which is what I’m doing today. And I plan to do that on Friday, too,” said Gulich.

Susanna Stoepfel is a Biological Science Technician at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She said Mother Nature can shed the seeds and grow them independently, "but not necessarily at the speed that we’d like it to happen. This process just helps areas that have been degraded or deforested to regenerate a lot more quickly.”

Restoring native plants benefits the environment by preventing soil erosion, squeezing out invasive species and providing more nutritional resources for wildlife. 

“I’ve heard it described as if we only ate rice for the rest of our life, would we really be that healthy? And that’s kind of what invasive plants are providing our wildlife. Just one source of nutrients,” said Miller.

The seeds volunteers work to gather are stored in refrigerators to simulate winter. Then, they're planted and cared for in a greenhouse in the spring until they're strong enough to be planted. Volunteers will help with the planting. 

“I hope we can continue our restoration efforts and move forward and fight climate change,” said Miller. “And I hope we can continue to be a place where people find joy and happiness.”

For more information about volunteer events, visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park's website.