OK, let’s face it.. The invasive Garlic Mustard plants are getting out of control all over Devil’s Lake State Park and one or two dedicated people can’t stop it. Watching a couple of people gather on a Tuesday night to pull a few bags of weeds in a sea of green is akin to watching Don Quixote draw his sword on a sea of windmills. It’s like trying to drain the ocean with an eye dropper. What’s more, the spread of invasives is just the tip of the iceberg. Something has to change and it’s going to take your help.
You see, we know garlic mustard and other invasive plants are destroying many of our Wisconsin wild lands. (I won’t go into all the details here.) We also know that these invasions are human introduced, human exacerbated and getting worse year by year. Here at Devil’s Lake State Park nearly 2 million people use the park every year… that’s a lot of people going off trails, causing erosion, compressing soil, stomping on native plants and of course spreading invasives like garlic mustard. But what can be done right?
Well, it’s got to start with us. We have to want our park to be beautiful and diverse long into the future. I mean, really want it. So much so that we are willing to do some stuff.
First, right now, we have to tell the folks in charge, most importantly, DNR State Parks Director, Dan Schuler (608-266-2185) that more should be done to protect the environment within Devil’s Lake State Park. We need more people and a budget that respects Wisconsin’s “premier state park”. It’s not pretty, folks. All you need to do is look beneath the “brochure photo” veneer of Devil’s Doorway. Invasive plants in green carpets cover forest floors, fallen trees and brush are piling up along trail sides, erosion is washing away soil on the cliffs, The wetland areas are filled with invasive grasses, and on and on.. (Don’t get me started on generally neglected Parfrey’s Glen or Pewit’s Nest!!) Devil’s Lake State Park is suffering under the weight of its own popularity and the DNR has to get serious about caring for the environment, not simply look at the park as a cash cow. The park needs to create or needs to enforce, to its environmental protection plan and most importantly finance and put in the work hours to make it happen. Even a cash cow needs to be cared for.
Second, the park staff and the supporting “Friends” group need to take the lead. Both need to engage the press and the community and get people to join them in caring for our local gem. They also have to set the example. Those in charge must be leaders. They must inspire others to feel it through them. If the park staff and the Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park board show how much they care about our park’s long term survival, others will follow. We need dedicated work days, community challenges and more. We need to engage the public and the press daily, regularly. We have to promote our communities symbiotic relationship with the park and make caring for it a community responsibility. We have to push until things start to give. This has to start with the folks who are the de facto leaders. They’ll set the tone that the rest will follow.
This is not to say that nothing is being done. A few dedicated folks are trying, they’re just frankly overwhelmed or facing apathy.
Lastly, the rest of us must volunteer our time when we can and of course, “take only pictures and leave only footprints”. Imagine 100 people dedicating 1 hour to pulling garlic mustard once a month. That’s 100 hours of work in an hour. Why can’t we do that?? Of course there’s more to do out there than simply pulling garlic mustard, but we have to start somewhere. If we can’t even do this, the park… OUR park, will slowly become another tired, eroded non-descript environment that used to be something amazing.., another big swimming pool surrounded by pavement, tired maple trees and invasive reed canary grass. We need to act, while there is still time.