Andover applying for grant to remove buckthorn

Andover is applying for a $20,000 federal grant to eradicate buckthorn from a city park.

Strootman Park sits on the east bank of the Rum River, west of Seventh Avenue and between 154th and 155th avenues. The park is 12 to 13 acres large, according to Kameron Kytonen, natural resources technician for the city of Andover.

Strootman Park
Strootman Park

Located throughout the park is buckthorn, an invasive plant.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), European immigrants brought it to Minnesota in the mid-1800s to serve as a hedging material. It was discovered over time that this plant did not mix well with plants native to Minnesota, so the nursery industry stopped selling it in the 1930s. Unfortunately, it is still around today.

The DNR says buckthorn is a problem because it takes away nutrients, light and moisture from other plans and serves as host to pests such as crown rust fungus and soybean aphid.

Kytonen recently submitted an application for a $20,000 grant to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This is a difficult grant to receive because it is so competitive and Kytonen expects to hear in March if the city will receive any federal funding.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation requires a 100 percent match on the $20,000 grant, either through in-kind services or funding. According to Kytonen, the city would need to spend about $5,000 above the $20,000 grant to buy new plants, while the remaining $15,000 of the grant could be spent over time city staff and volunteers to battle the buckthorn.

Andover received a grant from the Minnesota DNR six to seven years ago to reduce buckthorn at Kelsey Round Lake Park.

Kytonen said there have been mixed results. The buckthorn has been knocked back, but is still in some areas.

Andover has also been working on clearing buckthorn from the property it purchased a few years ago along the Rum River in northwestern Andover under the open space preservation program.

“It takes consistent effort,” Kytonen said. “Without that funding, it’s a challenge to have the staff time to go out there and actually put in that much work.”

The plan

There is a wetland south of the Strootman Park parking lot that “looks a bit ratty,” Kytonen said. Siberian elm and black locusts, which are also invasive species, are along the edges of the road, in the wetland and in the oak forest, and must be removed.

The plan is to plant some native grasses and flowers around the wetland. Kytonen said the city would have to hire a contractor to plant in the wetland area rather than have volunteers work in this area.

Some examples of plants that could go around the wetland include silky aster, marsh marigold, golden Alexander and nannyberry.

The pine forest stand needs to be thinned out because it has become overgrown. Kytonen said what likely happened was the trees were planted too close together.

Thinning a forest so sunlight can get to the forest floor is a necessary maintenance step to take and it will also allow the workers to get to the buckthorn that is on the forest floor, he said.

Kytonen said a difficult area of the park that could take five to 10 years to get rid of the buckthorn is in the floodplain of the park.

The buckthorn is so thick that herbicides may need to be applied directly to the buckthorn before the stumps are cut, but this would require tremendous care in making sure the herbicide does not impact the native plants being placed where the buckthorn was, he said.

Some plants that could be placed in the upland by volunteers include bigtooth aspen, hackberry, sugar maple, gray dogwood and showy goldenrod.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]