Devil’s Lake Nature Center volunteers spent a couple of hours last evening pulling garlic mustard along the Uplands Trail east of Steinke Basin. Keeping this hiking/biking trail diverse, healthy and beautiful is good for everyone!
We all know that garlic mustard is invading our parks. For volunteers who help with it’s removal, it sometimes feels like a losing battle. On the other hand, when you can clear out a big area and come back a few weeks later to see the variety of plants and wildflowers that fill in, you realize it’s so worth the effort! Native plants and wildflowers are often just waiting in the shadows to burst back onto the scene as soon as the weeds are gone.
Last night didn’t start out too well. Since we were working the trail over a mile from the parking lot, the park naturalist attempted to bring a “gator” out to carry water for volunteers and to carry the heavy bags of garlic mustard back. “Attempted” being the key word here! The “gator”, a small 4-wheel drive vehicle, can’t use the roads and has to traverse the hiking trails like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, the gator can’t jump over fallen trees!
We were waiting in the parking area for awhile when we got the first message… The naturalist was blocked and had to turn back. There was a tree in the way. She would take an alternate route. “O.K.” we thought, and waited. But that wasn’t the end. After a while we got another message… another downed tree on the second trail forced her to turn back again! Crazy!
In the end, there would be no gator. It was going to be a heavy lifting night.
Each of us took 2 black bags that could hold 20-40 lbs of pulled weeds, depending on your stuffing ability.. We cleared small patches along the first section of the trail and worked a large area of mustard around the 4th bridge. It didn’t take long before occasional thunder turned to a steady rain. Of course, we stayed to finish up the patch we were working on getting wet and a bit muddy in the process. Still, in the end we cleared quite a large area before giving in to the weather and running out of bags.
As I mentioned earlier, the worst part of not having the gator was that we each had to carry some heavy, wet bags over a mile back to the parking lot. By the time we got back to the car, we were wishing it would rain a little harder!
The one thought that keeps going through my mind is that it’s really pretty amazing how much we can do with just a few people and a couple of hours. If we could increase our numbers to even 10 or 20 people we could have some real impact.
Really, if there’s a better way to spend an evening than pulling wet garlic mustard and carrying heavy, wet bags back to a parking lot… I don’t wanna know about it. 🙂
If you’d like to join us in our Don Quixote-like war on invasives or help out with a variety of other projects at the park, you’d be more than welcome! Here’s the info!