Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Happenings at Riverside Park

The past couple of weeks have seen drastic changes at Riverside Park.

Continuing the work done by Gorge Stewards in May, volunteers from Aveda joined Gorge Stewards and FMR on September 29th. With the temperatures peaking in the mid 70's, volunteers worked hard in the sunshine removing several invasives, including buckthorn, burdock and motherwort. Manual removal and weeding prepared the area for planting and meant that the site would not need to be treated with herbicides.

This past Saturday, October 9th, nearly 40 volunteers joined ecologists from Ecological Strategies and members of the Gorge Leadership Team to follow up on the hard work of the Aveda crew. Getting their hands dirty in the soil, groups planted several species of native shrubs, grasses, and forbs (wildflowers).

Digging in! Basking in the sunshine, volunteers dig a small trench around the freshly weeded planting beds to keep the turf from encroaching.

Volunteers of all ages were present to restore Riverside Park. Recycled newspaper was spread around seedlings to keep out encroaching weeds, giving the natives a chance to thrive.

Volunteers begin spreading woodchips around some of the 5 grass species and 17 wildflower species planted at the site.

At the end of the day, volunteers planted 63 shrubs - dwarf bush honeysuckle, meadow rose and wolfberry - and about 260 native grass and wildflower seedlings - little bluestem, blazing star, columbine, and more - and helped redefine the trail edge leading down to the beautiful Mississippi.

Once dominated by sprawling invasives, Riverside Park is going back to its native roots with the help of these amazing volunteers. Look for events in the spring for ways you can continue to help restore Riverside Park and watch these plants grow!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2011 Gorge Leadership Team

The Gorge Leadership Team, now in its third season, has expanded the range of their efforts to include sites on the St. Paul side of the river gorge. This year they had outings at Hidden Falls and Crosby Parks in St. Paul, in addition to working at the 36th Street oak savanna in Minneapolis.

St. Paul's Parks and Recreation Department asked for the team's help caring for a spring ephemeral patch at Hidden Falls Park. The team spent the evening removing narrowleaf bittercress, an invasive species that has only recently been reported in Minnesota but that is spreading at an alarming rate along the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.

Narrowleaf bittercress, photo courtesy of MN Dept. of Ag.

They also pitched in at the prairie restoration project at Crosby Park, and helped tend the demonstration native prairie garden. The native grasses and flowers planted in 2008 have done really well, but so have the weeds! A small, experienced group of volunteers like the team, working with FMR's ecologist Karen Schik to decipher what was what, was just what was needed at the site.

Members of the Gorge Leadership Team pose in front of the mountain of weeds they pulled from the demonstration prairie at Crosby Park. Photo courtesy of Karen Solas.

The team again had an important role in the management of the oak savanna, prairie bowl, and oak woodland at 36th St & W. River Parkway in Minneapolis. They continued their vigilant work to keep garlic mustard and buckthorn from taking hold, and tackled numerous other outcroppings of invasives, like sweet clover and reed canary grass. Some team members also helped remove graffiti from interpretive signage, while others freed dogwood trees from smothering grapevines.

Team member Sara Muchoswki removes graffiti from an interpretive sign at the oak savanna. Photo courtesy of Karen Solas.

While the team's outings may be over for the season, many team members will be helping out at FMR's remaining public volunteer events, in the river gorge and beyond. These volunteers put in an average of 20 hours a season caring for the river, improving habitat and water quality. A huge thank you goes out to all the 2011 Gorge Leadership Team members for your incredible dedication and hard work!

Team members Michelle Garvey and Fred Tyler remove sweet clover from the oak savanna. Photo courtesy of Karen Solas.

Black swallowtail nectaring on sunflower at the 36th St. oak savanna. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Carr.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brush Hauling at Upper Crosby Lake

We recently reported on an exciting new shoreline restoration project beginning at Crosby Park's Upper Lake in St. Paul. On Thursday, August 5th, about 30 FMR volunteers gathered at the park to help out with the first phase of this restoration, invasive species removal.

Invasive and non-native buckthorn had formed a thicket along the shoreline and was choking out all the native trees, shrubs, and plants. Saint Paul Parks crews had cut this brush prior to the event, and our volunteers spent the evening hauling it out of the woods and stacking it so that SPP staff could then pick it up and take it away to be chipped.

After a lot of sweat, mosquito bites, and stinging nettle, we had hauled enough brush out of the woods that some beautiful views of the lake and shoreline were opened up. While this is nice for those of us who hike in the area, it also means that native species will have the opportunity to thrive in these cleared areas.

The piles of brush start to form!

Smiling, energized volunteers - it will take more than nettle to stop them!

Cup plant, one of the wonderful native species that will now have more room and resources to grow.

One of the largest buckthorn "shrubs" removed - this one was definitely more of a tree!

After removing the buckthorn brush, a group of volunteers uncovered this natural playground, including a perfect Tarzan vine...

... and a jump rope vine!

We are so exited to have begun this project, and to see how the shoreline is transformed and habitat improved at this important riverside park. Huge thanks to all the volunteers who helped out, and to St. Paul Parks & Recreation!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shoreline Restoration at Crosby Park!

FMR volunteers are important stewards of Crosby Park in St. Paul: tending a spring ephemeral patch, planting acorns, and restoring a native prairie. Starting this summer, we will be adding a shoreline restoration project to that list.

Volunteers will be working with FMR and St. Paul Parks & Recreation staff to restore part of the shoreline of Upper Lake. The first step in this project is to remove some of the invasive buckthorn that is crowding out the native species. SPPR crews will be cutting the brush, and volunteers will be needed to help haul it out of the area on Thursday, August 5th. SPPR will also be working to remove some of the reed canary grass later in the season, and we hope to replace these invasives with native shoreline plants in 2011.

For more information or to sign up to join this exciting new project, check out our events calendar.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tree Vandals in the Gorge

Someone recently cut down 28 newly planted trees along the Winchell Trail near Dowling School. The 6' saplings - sugar maple, basswood and oak - were then tossed over the bluff. The trail in this area was eroding and dangerous, so it had been rerouted to prevent further erosion and the trees were planted in an effort to help anchor the soil. The trail had been rerouted to the top of the bluff and a railing was put in to discourage people from using the old trailway. It seems as though whoever cut the trees wasn't happy with the trail rerouting and wanted to continue using the old alignment.

The financial loss is estimated at over $2500, which is enough to make the crime a felony. For more information, check out the following local news stories about the incident:

Photo courtesy of Hillary Oppmann.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Volunteers and Caterpillars at Riverside Park

The first FMR volunteer event at Riverside Park in Minneapolis was held on May 15, 2010. About 40 volunteers, many from the neighborhood, came together to remove invasive species like garlic mustard and buckthorn from key areas of the park. After all the time and energy invested by neighbors and partners to get the restoration of this park underway, it was very
exciting to finally get our hands dirty! To see more photos from the event, check out FMR's Flickr page.

Another event will be held at the park in the fall. Watch FMR's events calendar for details.

Throughout the event, forest tent caterpillars were raining down on the volunteers from the trees above. They were all over everyone's clothes and in their hair, covering equipment like the blue bucket in the photo, everywhere! If you've been back to the park since the event, you've probably noticed that the caterpillars wreaked some serious havoc, leaving some trees almost completely defoliated. This may look shocking and disturbing, but these trees should put out a second smaller set of leaves later in the summer and recover.

Tent caterpillars are native to Minnesota and have a natural boom and bust cycle - outbreaks occur at intervals of 5-10 years and each outbreak can last for 5-8 years. You'll notice defoliation starting in late May and lasting through late June, till the caterpillars have spun themselves into cocoons and pupated. Tent caterpillars have a whole slew of natural controls that keep them in check, including diseases and native predators (insects, spiders, birds, etc.) that evolved along with them.

For more information on forest tent caterpillars, check out this page from the DNR.

Photos courtesy of Karen Solas and Carolyn Carr.