Invasive species work will change look of nature preserve

The Anoka Nature Preserve is a 200-acre parcel of land owned by the city of Anoka just north of the Rum River Library at the northwest part of the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Bunker Lake Boulevard. The parcel is used by area residents as a passive recreational area, cross-crossed with walking trails and is frequently used by Anoka High School students for cross country running and skiing.

The city of Anoka donated a conservation easement on the parcel to the Anoka Conservation District (ACD) in 2007. Since then, the city and the ACD have been working together to secure funding to pursue ecological restoration work on the property. Recently, a pair of grant awards totaling nearly $175,000 to treat buckthorn throughout the site were awarded.

In October 2012, ACD staff, along with sentenced-to-serve (STS) crews applied herbicide to the invasive species common buckthorn, prickly ash and tartarian honeysuckle throughout 148 acres of the property. The herbicide is currently soaking through the bark and traveling down to the roots to kill the small trees and shrubs. The effort required nearly three weeks and $30,000 in herbicide to complete, and thanks to the STS program, came in well under budget.

Once the roots are dead, it will be possible to cut down the treated trees and shrubs without the risk of them coming back twice as dense by resprouting. Cutting of the woody material is scheduled to occur this winter and be wrapped up by the end of March.

With the removal of the dense buckthorn and other invasive small trees and shrubs, the warmth of the sunlight that will now be able to reach the ground will spur on rapid germination of the seeds that have built up over the years, according to Chris Lord, ACD manager.

To combat this, the grant provides for a controlled burn in a couple years to kill the anticipated two-foot-thick carpet of small seedlings that is anticipated to grow, Lord said.

“With the removal of the extremely dense infestation of invasive trees and shrubs, the park will take on a very different feel,” he said.

“It will be much more open and will better showcase the large number of stately old trees that make up the woodland. The openness may make the park feel a bit smaller though, with sightlines that extend beyond the park into neighboring yards and fields.

“It may take some getting used to, but in the end it will be much better for wildlife, because the berries from buckthorn cause malnourishment in birds and mammals.

“In time, and with some effort to keep the buckthorn from coming back, desirable shrubs like raspberries, hazelnut, chokecherry and dogwood will work their way into the park.”

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