- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Thirty or 40 years will pass before Maryland residents can fully appreciate the volunteer work that Danny Harris and his bride are doing.

The couple spend days in the autumn sun helping the Growing Native group gather nuts that will be planted along the Potomac River, its tributaries and other watersheds across the state.

“Instead of just talking about doing something, these people are actually doing something,” said Colleen Langan, 31, a Growing Native coordinator and former Peace Corps volunteer from New Mexico.

Ms. Langan said the purpose of replanting the fallen nuts along rivers and tributaries is to improve water quality and to anchor nearby soil to prevent erosion.

“The health of our waterways is largely determined by how we treat their adjacent lands,” said Matthew Logan, president of Potomac Conservancy, which coordinates the annual Growing Native project.

Mr. Harris, 80, said he and wife, Margaret, 76, have gathered black walnuts from beneath trees in their Cabin John neighborhood for about two years.

After collecting the nuts, the couple put them into fabric bags. They label the bags and load them into a wheelbarrow that Mr. Harris trundles down a dirt path to River Center and Lockhouse 8 on the C&O; Canal, within yards of the Potomac.

Ms. Langan and Bryan Seipp, 27, a Potomac Conservancy forester, are often the ones loading the bags into a pickup and delivering them across the state.

“I’ll come out in the morning and the squirrels will be there,” said Mr. Seipp, who on Tuesday was taking the nuts to the John S. Ayton State Nursery in Easton. “I just like working outside, helping the people.”

In about two years, the nuts — including oak, hickory and tulip poplar — will have sprouted into skinny seedlings, about 18 inches tall. They will be dug up in the spring, put into clusters of 100 and transported to areas for Potomac Conservancy and Growing Native volunteers to replant.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris, who have been married 15 months, met as children growing up in Silver Spring.

Mr. Harris moved with his family to a farm, then served on a Navy destroyer during World War II.

He got married and returned to farming while working as a plumbing and heating specialist. When he retired, he worked as a volunteer. He and his first wife, who has since died, won two gubernatorial medals for their service.

Mrs. Harris became a waitress in Silver Spring. She and her first husband, who has since died, had two children.

At the funeral of a mutual acquaintance, she encountered Mr. Harris for the first time in several years.

The nut-collecting season began in October and runs through next Friday.

Growing Native officials do not anticipate a record year because of a lack of rainfall this summer, but expect to exceed last year’s total of 6,320 pounds. The collection was small because 17-year cicadas ate the nuts.

In 2003, about 7,000 volunteers, including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, gathered 19,000 pounds, which could result in as many as 1.1 million trees.

“People can get involved in a very easy way,” Mr. Seipp said.

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