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MAKING WAY FOR NATIVE PLANTS TO FLOURISH

Written by Andrew Oost

(October 2012) This summer, near William F. Miles Lakes at Beckley Creek Park, The Parklands’ natural areas team was approached by a visitor inquiring about the removal of “shrubs” and whether that aligned with Miles’ conservationist mentality. Misunderstanding of invasive plant management and its role in a larger vision of environmental restoration is not uncommon.

The removal of non-native, invasive species helps restore the native ecosystem and ultimately leave it in a healthier state.

Many witnesses assume the worst at the sight of workers wielding chain saws or backpack sprayers. What they may not realize is that the removal of specific species allows more species to thrive.

Similarly to the aftermath of a wildfire, the landscape may at first appear barren, but almost immediately the plant life recovers, much richer in biodiversity and healthier than it was before the blaze.

Visitors to William F. Miles Lakes at Beckley Creek Park have noticed great changes over the past year. Sections of the Louisville Loop have appeared as well as a trailhead and Lake Overlook.

Whatever the impact of this new infrastructure, the changes in the natural areas have likely been more dramatic. Nowhere is this more evident than on the hillside overlooking the floodplain. Just six short months ago, this dramatic vista was completely blocked off by a thick tangle of invasive Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) and multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora). After their removal, the area was seeded with a mix of native grasses and wildflowers that will flourish underneath an overstory of hickory, walnut, oak and buckeye.

A stroll along Floyds Fork here will reward the visitor with newly unveiled views of the stream. For years, a dense population of honeysuckle and poison hemlock blocked both visual and physical access to Floyds Fork. Since work removing this barrier began two years ago, the riparian zone recovery has been encouraging, now evident by the vast array of native species flourishing along the banks. This growth will be supplemented with the planting of hundreds of native trees and shrubs later this year.

New fishing spots along the lakes have been made accessible from the shoreline thanks to the removal of the previously impenetrable mass of honeysuckle.

Woody vegetation has been removed from the dam faces to prevent spreading root systems from compromising the earthen dams. These dam faces have been reseeded with native grasses, which will frame a spectacular view from the Lake Overlook currently under construction.

One of the most rewarding aspects of ecological restoration is discovering hidden elements within the revealed landscape. The removal of the smothering invasive layer exposes wonders that we might have otherwise missed. Although the work has just begun, the natural areas team at The Parklands of Floyds Fork is focused on making more of these small wonders accessible to park users.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Homeowners can help by removing non-native, invasive species from their yards and replacing them with non-invasive alternatives. Before purchasing a plant, ask your nurseryman if the species you’re considering can become invasive.

Native alternatives for your own home landscaping:

The Parklands of Floyds Fork is one of the nation’s largest new urban parks projects. Under construction now and opening in phases from 2013 to 2015, it is a system of four new parks, connected by a park drive, world-class trail system and the Louisville Loop. 21st Century Parks is the nonprofit responsible for the development and long-term management of The Parklands. Andrew Oost is a member of The Parklands Natural Areas Team. You can find out more about The Parklands and how to get involved at www.theparklands.org or by calling 502-584-0350.

Click here to read this article on the Courier-Journal.com

About the Author

Picture of Andrew Oost

Andrew Oost

Andrew joined the 21st Century Parks team in 2012 as the Natural Areas Team Leader, responsible for the restoration and maintenance of the woodlands, meadows and trail system within the park and worked on The Parklands project until February 2015. Previously Andrew worked for Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy, NativeScapes, Inc., and the National Park Service, at both Rocky Mountain National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Geography.

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