Volunteers needed to pull off socially distanced weed plucking at Swaner Preserve
The Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter is currently fighting off an invasion.
It seeks volunteers to help control invasive weeds, which have grown rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, said Rhea Cone, Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter conservation coordinator.
“Every year we battle invasive weeds, and we usually recruit volunteer groups to join us in volunteer events,” Cone said. “Due to COVID, everything was put on hold in the early spring, and we weren’t able to recruit volunteers. While our staff did some work, we missed having those big groups, which make a huge difference in weed management.”
The next weed pull will be from 8-10 a.m. on Friday, and the one after that is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 12. Registration is required.
“Volunteers need to register to help maintain a safe number of people to ensure social distancing,” she said.
Anyone ages 12 and older can register, but those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, according to Cone.
After volunteers register, Cone will send out emails with information regarding the locations and weeds.
All volunteers must wear closed-toed shoes and pants, and be prepared to walk over uneven ground, bend over for extended periods, work outdoors in a variety of conditions and comply with the COVID safety rules, she said.
“We will all wear masks in accordance with the Summit County mandate,” she said. “And we must maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet from each other and the staff.”
Volunteers should also bring their own gloves, sunscreen, water and snacks, and should keep in mind that restrooms will not be available, according to Cone.
“We will provide trash bags and tools that have been disinfected, and each person will get one pair of clippers to use,” she said. “When they finish the project, they will put the clippers in a bin marked ‘Dirty.’ We will also have hand sanitizer available.”
Invasive weeds are not native to the Swaner Preserve or the surrounding areas, Cone said.
“Many are from different continents that were brought over accidentally or on purpose,” she said. “They don’t have local systems that keep them in check, and so they spread quickly and form monocultures.”
These monocultures, which are basically large areas of weeds, choke out the native plants, which impacts the local ecosystems, according to Cone.
“These weeds not only affect pollinators, but also larger wildlife that rely on native plants for food and shelter,” she said.
At the beginning of each session, Cone will give a walk-through and demonstration about the weeds the group will attack.
“I’ll show them how to identify the plants and the proper technique we will use to take them down,” she said.
Some of the targeted weeds include dyers woad and musk and Scotch thistles, Cone said.
Dyer’s woad, which is native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, is a non-edible plant that pops up in June and July, she said.
“The name Dyer comes from the fact that you can make a beautiful indigo dye from the stems,” Cone said. “That’s why it was brought to the U.S., but it just takes over everything.”
Volunteers will simply pull the weed, she said.
“It has a long taproot that allows us to do that,” she said. “We usually get together in the early summer to pull these weeds, but couldn’t this year.”
The musk and Scotch thistle, which are native to Europe and Asia, are recognized by their round purple blossoms and thorny leaves and stems. Cone said.
“While they are pretty, they choke out native vegetation and will create barriers that wildlife can’t penetrate,” she said.
These plants have a strong 8-foot taproot that prevents easily pulling.
“To control these weeds, we cut off the flowers and throw them away so they won’t go to seed, and then we cut down the plant,” Cone said. “We have to throw them away because the seeds will spread if you put them in green waste or compost piles.”
Although Cone has set dates for volunteer weed pulling, she will also accommodate groups that want to schedule their own sessions.
“I recently had a local landscaping company bring their employees, and I’m open to other corporate groups and families who want to volunteer different days,” she said.
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