Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Restoration Season 2007

The Gorge Stewards have had a busy and productive restoration season this year!

More than 450 volunteers have contributed almost 1200 hours to help protect and enhance the natural communities of the river gorge through a variety of activities including clean-ups, removing invasive species, and collecting and redistributing native seed.

FMR once again coordinated the 36th Street and West River Parkway site of the Minneapolis Park and Rec Board's citywide Earth Day clean-up. With almost 200 volunteers, the gorge was given a pretty good spring cleaning! Later in the season, a group of students from Northwestern College participated in another clean-up, focusing on the areas near 34th and 44th Streets and West River Parkway.

During the spring months of April and May, Gorge Stewards volunteers devoted much of their energy to pulling garlic mustard, a highly invasive exotic woodland plant. As a way to empower and increase the impact of our volunteers, we held a "Pledge to Pull" event, during which volunteers were provided training and asked to pledge to return to the site to pull more garlic mustard on their own time. After providing a brief orientation on garlic mustard, we began work on a slope of the restored oak savanna. Thanks to the hard work of so many volunteers over the years, this area is teeming with a variety of good natives, like this beautiful bloodroot plant. Removing the garlic mustard helped to ensure the success of the native plants in this amazing spot. The group then headed to the river flats, a large section of floodplain that unfortunately is carpeted with garlic mustard. Eight volunteers later returned to the gorge to pull more garlic mustard on their own, for an additional 67 hours! In addition, a group of students from Carondelet Catholic School learned about and pulled garlic mustard in the river flats area in mid-May.

Oak Savanna Workdays began in May and were held once a month through October. During these events, volunteers under the direction of Carolyn Carr of Ecological Strategies carried out a variety of tasks associated with caring for the mesic prairie and remnant oak brushland/woodland that is being restored to an oak savanna. This often involved removing invasive species, such as buckthorn, reed canary grass, and sweet clover. Volunteers also helped maintain existing plantings by weeding and watering during the dry period this summer. Towards the end of the season, volunteers helped prepare sections of the site for seeding, then collected seed from native prairie plants, spread the seed, and laid erosion blanket.

In the fall when trees begin to drop their leaves, buckthorn stays green, giving it a competitive advantage over other plants. However, this also makes it easier for volunteers to identify and remove! Our last Gorge Stewards public restoration event of the season was a buckthorn pull at a site in the Seward neighborhood, near 24th Street and West River Parkway. Around twenty brave and hearty souls tackled a patch of buckthorn on a steep slope between the paved walking and biking path and the Winchell Trail. A few individuals also tended to the prairie plantings that had been installed by volunteers several years ago.

As in years past, Gorge Stewards volunteers were of all ages and from all walks of life. Some volunteers have been regular Gorge Stewards for several years, some became regulars this season, and some came to just one event. But all brought with them infectious enthusiasm and dedication, and their hard work made a valuable contribution to the health and future of this rare and precious gem, our Mississippi river gorge.

Photo 1 courtesy of Tim Boyle
Photo 2 courtesy of Peter Kastler
Photos 3, 4 courtesy of Karen Solas
Photos 5, 6, 7, 8 courtesy of Hillary Oppmann


Ranger Ami Thompson said...

This blog is a wonderful idea! Great work!

dignature said...

Hey Karen, I really enjoyed my Gorge Steward evenings last year. You did a great job organizing.
And the place keeps looking better and better, even in the winter!

Is there going to be a Gorge Stewards Open House again this year? I need to find out who ended up with my Cross pen...

Happy Winter,
Tim B.