Air Quality:

Popple Trail Invasive Species Removal Report

Area:  Webb Park is located in the heart of Reedsburg, it runs along the Baraboo River and has a popular walking trail along the river named the Popple Trail, after a long time High School Science teacher that helped develop the river trail system several decades ago.  The park and trail system are bordered by Main Street on the south, the Webb Middle School (former High School) on the north, residential neighborhood to the east and Baraboo River on the west.
Issue:  The trail system is used by school groups to interact with nature and identify plant and animal species.  The park is located adjacent to the middle school for easy access by student groups.  The plant species over the past several decades have changed as Buckthorn has become a predominant species along the trail.  Buckthorn is an invasive species that leafs out early and drops leaves late, with dense green foliage that blocks out competing species.  The plant has long thorns and forms in dense groves.  The black berries of the plant are consumed by birds and spread to other areas.  With the Buckthorn taking over the trail system, the area has become less diverse in both plant and animal species. 
Solution:  The only way to combat invasive Buckthorn is with hand removal and immediate treatment of the stump to stop regrowth.  With a mile of trail over a thirty acre area, this creates a large labor intensive project.  Another issue is what to do with all the Buckthorn that is cut down, which we decided to use to build Rabbitat in place for the wildlife. Finally, replanting will be necessary to regrow the urban forest.
Groups Involved:  Jim Schullenburg, Owner of Villari’s Fitness Center and a Martial Arts Instructor approached the City about a community service project for his six recently awarded black belts.  Part of earning the black belt designation is support of your community.  City Administrator Witt suggested the invasive species removal project.  An organizational meeting was held with the six black belts at City Hall to review what it would take to organize a project of this scope.  Two dates in the fall were set for the removal and additional community support was sought.  First to sign on was Disconsin Disc Golf Club, a group of local supporters of the disc golf sport.  The Executive Director lives in Reedsburg and they would like to see the area used for their disc golf sport.  We had additional help from Kiwanis members and from High School students looking to complete their community hour requirements for graduation.  Many of the volunteers brought family and friends to pitch in on the project.  We had around 40 volunteers on each day of the invasive species removal for six hours of hard work.
Event:  We ended up with really nice weather on both Sunday, September 13th and Saturday, September 19th.  Volunteers set up a rally point at the head of the trail with water, snacks, and literature on the project.  Each volunteer brought their own cutting devices, a colorful array of chainsaws, hand saws and clippers.  Tordon specialty herbicide and chemical gloves were provided by the City.  Jim Schullenburg built custom pvc application wands that he should really consider a patent on.  Both days, groups started at 10am by splitting into smaller work crews.  Work crews were about 5-6 each with a cutter, spotter, two Rabbitat builders and a chemical applicator position.  Work days lasted for six hours and the crews came out of the woods sweaty, scratched up and bloody from handling of the thorny invasive species.
Impact:  Buckthorn trees as large as ten inch diameter and twenty plus feet tall were removed.  The immediate impact was the amount of sunlight that was able to reach the ground along the trail system.  The cut material was placed in Rabbitat piles off the trail for the wildlife. While 12 hours of labor by 40 volunteers made a dent in the total amount of Buckthorn, this will become on ongoing project over several years to rid the area of all Buckthorn.
Replanting:  The middle school has volunteered to come in the spring of 2016 to replant seedlings into the cleared areas of the park.  The City has agreed to purchase the plants. 
Community:  The project brought together different community groups and built a real sense of camaraderie. The project was covered by the local media and was on social media.  The impact of this project will benefit generations to come as the very popular Popple Trails will increase in educational value and recreational value.