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RC&D and area high schools improve Wausau parks

posted Nov 22, 2013, 9:43 AM by GSRC&D Administrator   [ updated Nov 22, 2013, 9:53 AM ]
Golden Sands Resource Conservation & Development Council and three area Wausau high schools joined forces on October 9th and 11th to battle against invasive plant species in two beloved community parks, Fern Island and Riverside Park.   

October 9th, 12 students from Wausau West and 10 students from Lincoln Hills School for Boys came together at Riverside Park to take on the non-native buckthorn and honeysuckle shrubs that have taken over the forested areas of that park.  Surveys prior to the field trip found infested by found the percent cover of invasive shrubs at an average of 15% cover, and as bad as 50% cover. 

Students learned firsthand about the damage these invasive shrubs cause to the forests they invade.  They soon became experts at distinguishing between native and invasive species, and removed these invaders with loppers and hand-saws.  Crew leaders followed behind dabbing the cut stumps with herbicide to kill the roots.

A total area of nearly 16,000 square feet was rid of invasive shrubs by the students, with the intermixed native shrubs left intact to thrive once more.  The huge piles of cut shrubs were later chipped for disposal by the Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department.  The Department also supplied a crew leader to assist students for the day, as did Wausau West, Lincoln Hills School for Boys, Golden Sands RC&D, and Marathon County Land and Water Conservation Department.  This was the first field trip of its kind to Riverside Park, thanks to new funding from the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin.

October 11th, 22 students from Wausau East converged on Fern Island for the eight annual battle against invasive shrubs there, continuing the battle that began seven years ago to eradicate them from Fern Island.  Student crews learned first-hand how invasive non-native buckthorn and honeysuckles can be, and honed their plant identification skills through hands-on field work.  An estimated total of four acres were cleared of the invasive shrubs by the students.  Monitoring surveys have found that the maximum percent cover of invasive shrubs on the island has dropped from 65% in 2010 to 20% in 2013.

Both parks include floodplain forest habitat, a unique kind of wetland.  It is made up of a variety of environments, both wet and dry, so many different species of plant and wildlife can be found in these ecosystems.  Waterfowl, amphibians, songbirds, fish, insects, and reptiles all use these wetlands.  Forest floodplains help people, too.  They clean the water and are extremely important for managing floodwaters and reducing floods. 

Golden Sands RC&D coordinates these work parties in partnership with Wausau/Marathon County Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department.  Funding support for the Fern Island Field Trip comes from a DNR AIS grant.  Funding for the Riverside Park Field Trip comes from the George L. Geisler Trust Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin.  Anyone interested in sponsoring or volunteering for future field trips may contact Golden Sands RC&D at 715-343-6215 or