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INVASIVE SPECIES: Volunteers Battle

The birds like them for the red berries and spread them…

But we were the ones who loved honeysuckle first, and now we’re stuck with it.

“Because it was sold through the nurseries before they knew it was invasive,” says Yellow Banks County Park volunteer, John Harri. “All the nurseries sold it.”

One of many invasive plant species that have turned Iowa’s woodlands into a tangled mess.

“They shade out other things,” Harri says, “and so your other flowers and smaller plants aren’t gonna grow because they don’t get sunlight.”

So for the last decade, volunteers like Harri and Penny Thompson of the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club have worked with the Polk County Conservation Board, cutting and spraying invasives in our parks.

“It is physically challenging,” Thompson says, “I’m not gonna sugar coat it and say it’s easy to do.”

Here’s an easy way to see if an area is infested with invasive species—just take a look into the woods. The view is completely blocked by honeysuckle.

But in areas without invasive species, you can see WAY back into the woods.

“It’s a different look,” Harri says. “It’s the way it looked before our ancestors got here.”

Volunteer stewards deal with invasive species in nearly every Polk County park.

“We have keys to the maintenance shed,” says Thompson, “so we don’t have to coordinate with staff, so we can just come out when we have time to do it.”

That’s all that can be asked of a group of weed-wacking volunteers willing to do some serious work for little more than the satisfaction of doing it.

“I feel good at the end of the day,” Harri smiles. “I’m tired, but I feel good.”

If you are interested in volunteering contact the Polk County Conservation Office at 323-5280.

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