On August 5th, a group of volunteers gathered at Rotary Park in North Saint Paul to clear out an overgrown stretch of the Gateway State Trail. This event was the opening act in a project led by the Gateway Brown’s Creek Trail Association and funded by a habitat restoration grant from Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota. Together with a group of UMN graduate students learning landscape design, the GBCTA have settled on this stretch of trail as the focus for their restoration efforts. However, the selected site has had issues with unwanted species such as wild grape and knapweed, as well as the presence of a dense stand of willow shoots in the middle of what was originally intended to be semi-open prairie.
Luckily, August 5th was a balmy summer day with mild sunshine and a brisk wind, and volunteer attendance at the event was robust. Together, the volunteers cut willow shoots with loppers and pulled out knapweed, grapevine, and other unwanted plants by hand. They also had the opportunity to educate passing hikers and bikers on the project, many of whom expressed their support for the continued restoration of habitat along the trail. After two hours of hard work, there was more milkweed than knapweed along the trail, and the combined efforts of perhaps half a dozen energetic volunteers had cut down the entirety of the willow stand, allowing sunlight to filter through the native plants they had been shading out.
The GBCTA and interested volunteers will convene in September to do the actual plantings in the project area, with a focus on trees, shrubs, and prairie plants that benefit native pollinator populations. In the meantime, the plants of the Gateway State Trail have a little more breathing room – and some of the trail’s regular hikers and bikers have a better idea of the hard work that goes into keeping the trail in a good condition for everyone.
Photo: Phoebe Ward/P&TC