A few weeks before our November 5 prescribed burns I headed over to the Art Project on the Paint Creek Trail just north of Gallagher Rd to make sure the area was ready for the burn crew. The Art Project is a tribute to the prairie along the trail, and the many prairie restoration projects along the trail were commemorated with this cool video.
When I looked out at the prairie patch surrounding the art project, I saw many shrubs shading out the sun-loving prairie plants, including perennial sunflowers, Culver’s root, shrubby St. John’s wort (Hypericum prolificum), and prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata).
Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), privet (Ligustrum vulgare), and autumn olive (Eleagnus umbellata) had reclaimed the edges of the prairie since it was last cleared in 2007-2008.
I got to work cutting the invasive shrubs. I also treated the cut stumps with herbicide to prevent resprouting. This method is very selective, only affecting the invasive plants that I target, and saves me from cutting the resprouts in the future.
Over summer 2014 we had some problems with woodchips accidentally being dumped on the prairie, mowers slowly expanding their mowed area, and having to drive through a corner of this prairie with park trucks to access the trail. I also worked with our maintenance crew to rearrange the access to the trail so that we don’t have to drive through this area.
Doug, our maintenance foreman, also suggested that we take out a strip of asphalt that had been placed in the prairie several years ago – apparently left over from re-surfacing the Gallagher Rd bridge across Paint Creek. The asphalt patch wasn’t used often, so it made sense to take it out to make space for native grasses and forbs.
Next I’ll be seeding the bare ground with native seeds that I collected from nearby parks. I am looking forward to watching this patch over the next few years as the native plants to fill in the area left bare by invasive plants. We’ll do our best to honor our natural heritage, and the Art Project, by keeping this area as prairie.