We are removing forty years’ growth of invasive buckthorn from Sunfish Lake Park. It is a difficult process, but someone had to do it, and that is George!
Have you noticed that some of the trees in the park are marked with different colored tapes? The Friends of Lake Elmo’s Sunfish Lake Park have received a Grant called “Restoration of Sunfish Lake Park” from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
The State of Minnesota Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The focus of this effort is to remove buckthorn and restore the native habitat. It covers a designated 40 acres of the woodland area of the park – shown in GREEN outline in the current sketch below (but omitting the yellow-outlined portions) – and runs through September 2023 . The State will reimburse up to $139,000 in costs, the City of Lake Elmo has voted a $10,000 contribution, and the Friends will contribute at least 300 volunteer hours valued at $20/hour for a total program cost of $154,000. We have selected Stantec to begin the heavy work of clearing and mulching, sometime this Fall. Volunteers are needed to do some of the manual tasks. As soon as the buckthorn dares to show its early green leaves, we will resume the Second Saturday buckthorn removal. Every volunteer hour contributed will be a $20 credit to the DNR contract effort – please come and sign in and lend a hand (or two). We have the tools and gloves. Please contact George for further information or questions at 651-757-5610.
The area outlined in bright green, but not the areas outlined in yellow, show the 40 acres to be restored under this program. We have marked some of the mature native trees (yellow=oak, red=maple, green=misc) so that the forest mulching machine operators will spare them.
Here is the map of the area that has been mulched (brown) as of March, with areas in purple that need hand-work (too steep to mulch) and yellow circles where invasive oriental bittersweet needs to be removed.
An outline of the plan is:
A. There will be a volunteer effort starting on second Saturday mornings – Please contact George for further information or questions at 651-757-5610.
B. In the last few months of 2020, volunteers cut/treat the small buckthorn that was growing within two feet of each identified mature tree so those trees won’t be damaged by the difficult-to-maneuver forest mulching machinery
C. In October 2020 Stantec did ground-level foliar spraying in the areas north of the parking lot that have been cleared of big buckthorn in the past two years by the efforts of our volunteers. That area will be seeded with fast-growing native grasses that will begin to build up a fuel reserve for eventual prescribed burns
D. In Winter 2020-2021 Stantec did the forestry mulching, there are only a few acres left that need to be hand-cut/chainsawed.
E. Now that the old-growth buckthorn has mostly been removed from the 40-acre restoration area, buckthorn stump sprouts will be sprayed next fall to kill off any new growth. In Spring 2021 about 15 acres of the area will be seeded with native woodland grasses. In addition to improving wildlife habitat, the grasses will help to provide fuel for a prescribed burn (probably Fall 2022 or Spring 2023) . Spot applications of broad-leaf herbicide are also planned for late Spring to help control other broad-leaf weeds (like burdock). A Stantec ecologist will be walking the woodland during the 2021 growing season to monitor recovery of the native ground layer plants and guide weed control efforts. Of course these dates are estimates and the actual times depend on weather and growing conditions.