Preserving green space

The challenges of protecting, preserving and managing open space are complex and long-term; extraordinary amounts of time, expertise and energy are required to protect our natural resources from poorly planned development and profiteering.

Nonprofit organizations and government agencies involved in saving local open space work on a number of fronts beginning with the acquisition of open space land from private land owners to preserving its natural state. The work also involves reparation to damaged lands from past misuse, as well as control of wild growth of invasive plant species.

Currently, one of our city’s biggest issues in considering open space issues is the infestation of the highly invasive buckthorn and other non-native plant species that are harmful to native plant life. Non-native species unknowingly can be (or knowingly are) introduced into areas where they flourish and crowd out native species that cannot compete, causing massive ecological changes including extinctions. The ecological chain reaction from the introduction of even one seemingly minor species can often be dramatic, environmentally harmful and economically destructive.

Solutions involve preventing additional introductions and eradicating existing exotics. To prevent additional introductions we must learn how past introductions have occurred so we can predict future routes of infestation. Targeted strategies then can be developed to prevent introduction through these routes.

To eradicate exotics we must learn their biology and ecology, and we must choose the most effective eradication method that will have the least impact on native species. Sometimes introducing a parasite or predator of the targeted organism is effective, but care must be taken not to introduce something that itself will become a pest. In other situations, directly targeting the plant species itself is effective. In many cases it is a long and difficult process to eradicate a non-native species. Also, there are instances where groups of people happen to use or like the presence of a particular type of plant or shrub (even if it is invasive), and political, social and cultural concerns must be taken into account.

The city of Oakdale is involved in a number of programs that are helping to preserve green space. One of them is buckthorn removal and the other is Adopt-a-Wetland. If you’d like to learn more about identifying and removing buckthorn, or about the Adopt-a-Wetland program, please call 730-2706. Weed wrenches are available for Oakdale residents to use free of charge for removal of buckthorn from their yards.

Another opportunity for residents to help preserve green space is coming up on Oct. 29. Groups and individuals are needed to help with the removal of buckthorn in Oakdale Park on that day. The four-hour project will start at 8 a.m. with check-in at the Oakdale Nature Center, 4444 Hadley Ave. N. Refreshments will be available during the morning, and lunch will be served at the conclusion of the project. Volunteers will remove buckthorn using weed wrenches and they will stack the buckthorn at the site. Public Works employees will assist by operating necessary power equipment. If you are interested in helping with this project, please call 730-2706.

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