About 30 volunteers pull plants at Priest Point Park in Olympia

About 30 volunteers pull plants at Priest Point Park in Olympia

ahobbs@theolympian.comJanuary 5, 2014 

In the first work party of 2014, more than 30 volunteers showed up Saturday to battle invasive species along a beach trail at Olympia’s Priest Point Park.

The main target: English ivy. This resilient perennial evergreen can grow rapidly along the ground or climb trees. English ivy often blocks sunlight and chokes out surrounding vegetation, leading to an “ivy desert.”

The work parties run yearlong as part of Olympia’s Park Stewardship Program. A few weeks after clearing the ivy, crews will return to plant native vegetation including hemlocks, cedars, sword ferns, snowberry, salmonberry and Oregon grapes. Olympia uses grant money to purchase new plants from local nurseries, said Sylvana Niehuser, the city’s park ranger.

Saturday, volunteers dragged out tangled bushels of ivy by the armload. It didn’t take long before the soil beneath the ivy was visible again. Other invasive plants on Saturday’s list included laurel, holly and the Himalayan blackberry.

For the past eight years, Olympia resident Roberta Woods has regularly attended the work parties, which have attracted more than 100 volunteers. Woods is a retired marine biologist who appreciates the chance to work outside and get her science fix. She said that pulling weeds can be an effective upper-body exercise.

“It makes me feel good,” Woods said, noting the opportunity to share scientific knowledge with students who volunteer. “I try to teach them without being too preachy.

“It can be hard to control yourself.”

Local high school students volunteer at the parties to fulfill community service or classroom requirements. One of those students, Ivan Jenner, yanked fistfuls of ivy from the trail Saturday while fellow teenagers snipped and clipped away at the plants.

The Timberline High School senior needed just 30 more minutes to complete his 20 total hours of service for the year.

“At least I’m not sitting at home doing nothing,” said Jenner, 17, who plans to graduate in the spring.

Introduced to the nation by European settlers as an ornamental plant, English ivy is now classified as a noxious weed by the state. The Washington Invasive Species Council was established in 2006 to coordinate efforts across the state in battling nonnative plants, animals and insects.

For 2011-2013, the council had an operating budget of about $440,000 to address about 50 invasive species in the state.

More work parties

The next work parties will be held 9:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Watershed Park, 2308 McCormick Court SE.

Crews will work 9:30 a.m.-noon Jan. 15 at Trillium Park, 900 Governor Stevens Ave. NE. The next work party for Priest Point Park, 2600 East Bay Drive NE, will run 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 18.

Tools, gloves and some refreshments are provided. Volunteers under age 18 must have a signed waiver, or have a parent sign in at the event. Volunteers under age 14 must be accompanied by an adult. To learn more or see a schedule, visit olympiawa.gov/parkvolunteer.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 ahobbs@theolympian.com

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