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Feb 10

Invasive plant removal efforts also begin large-scale ten-year plan

Posted on February 10, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Becky Burnside

Q: What’s sweeter than bush honeysuckle with its bright red berries in the winter, and fragrant flowers in the summer? 

A: A clear forest understory that doesn’t choke tree growth and allows trail users to safely see what’s ahead.

Work began in early January on an effort to remove this invasive plant from 175 acres of forested areas on three JCPRD park properties.

“The overall goal is to remove 100 acres of bush honeysuckle at Shawnee Mission Park along the violet and orange trails, 50 acres at Ernie Miller Park, and 25 acres at the Cedar Niles future park site using three conservation contractors,” said Field Biologist Matt Garrett. “It’s a big disruptor to our ecosystems, and supportive citizens and our board have both endorsed doing this work and making our forests healthy and safe.” 

A JCRPD Natural Resource Plan, which was completed and approved by the Johnson County Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners in 2019, identified a need for bush honeysuckle control and removal of invasive species.

Garrett explained why bush honeysuckle, which is considered an “invasive weed of concern” in Kansas, is a problem.

“Bush honeysuckle is an invasive exotic species from Asia,” he said. “It overwhelms our local forests. The plants leaf out faster in the springtime, it crowds out native species, its red berries are eaten by birds and spread quickly. It limits sunlight going to the forest floor, which makes it impossible for native trees to reproduce - their seedlings can’t  grow - so you get an overstory of adult trees , and you have a wasteland of bush honeysuckle You don’t have a future age classes of trees. It competes for soil moisture, and it actually releases a chemical into the ground that inhibits the future growth of other plants.”

The current work began in early January, and is expected to be completed in August. A Kansas Forest Service grant will provide additional funding for more removal work into the fall. The contractors are using forestry equipment to clear the landscape and spot spraying herbicide.

The honeysuckle removal effort also represents the beginning of a large-scale ten-year habitat improvement plan, which will also involve prairie restoration, and eastern red cedar removal.

“By 2029, we would have completed most of the honeysuckle removal throughout the district,” Garrett said. “Our long-term goal, is that once we eliminate these invasive species, with increased staffing and prescribed fire, we’ll keep these areas clean of bush honeysuckle, and make sure new colonies are attacked before they produce seed.”  

While some honeysuckle removal already been completed, visitors to SMP and EMP could be affected by rolling trail closures through 2020. 

“If the trail system is open to the public (and not closed due to weather), there may be portions of trails that are closed (for Honeysuckle removal) and we would be asking the public to follow detours,” Garrett said.

Check for trail closures by visiting RainOutLine.com (search for Urban Trail Company) or JCPRD’s Facebook Page or Urban Trail Co.’s Facebook page for updates. 

Members of the public who would like to volunteer for honeysuckle removal work days, can check the websites of two organizations which work with JCPRD: Kansas City WildLands, and Urban Trail Co.