–by CANDY SARIKONDA
The invasive plant removal project at Harroun Park has been underway for the past year, and will continue this year. The Nature Conservancy will be returning this spring to continue removing invasive common buckthorn, non-native grasses, and invasive flowering plants like garlic mustard from the site. If you are a longtime visitor to the park, you have probably noticed that the park has “opened up” considerably. There are now clearings where once there were dense stands of common buckthorn. The river ecosystem, now increasingly free of these invasive trees, is beginning to heal itself.
I have been documenting the native wildflowers that are beginning to spring up from seeds that have long been dormant in the soil. Native wildflower seed has been shown to grow after remaining dormant for 70 years, and I am seeing plants like Golden Ragwort, wild geranium, jewelweed, dogbane, wild ginger, wild bergamot, cutleaf coneflower, blue violet, downy violet, wingstem and many others begin to appear or spread as the restoration continues. Now that the buckthorn is removed, these plants have the sunlight and space they need to grow. And breathe.
The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Interagency Restoration Team has been using a forestry mower to remove much of the buckthorn, and this spring they will continue to remove remaining stands of buckthorn on the west hillside by hand, using loppers and chainsaws. As TNC removes invasives in the park, they have been careful to preserve any native trees and wildflowers that they find. Trees planted years ago by our city’s Forestry Department are now visible and thriving. Pat O’Brien, the cty of Sylvania’s Superintendent of Parks and Forestry, explained that about 10 years ago, emerald ash borer beetles destroyed most of the ash trees in Harroun Park. The dead ash trees were removed, and O’Brien and his crew installed sapling sycamore, river birch, black willow, swamp white oak, and Ohio buckeye trees in the area. Cottonwood trees emerged on their own. These trees are now much larger and quite healthy. Two tulip trees also survived the buckthorn invasion, and O’Brien is now training them, carefully pruning them to grow into healthy mature trees.
“One generation plants the trees, another gets the shade.”
Our Sylvania Tree Commission has taken that to heart. Working together with the Forestry Department, the commission has been working to select the most appropriate tree and wildflower species for the floodplain ecosystem. Trees typical of such an ecosystem have been chosen for their ability to provide food and shelter for birds and butterflies, while also beautifying the park. Serviceberry trees have been planted on the east side of the park, alongside the river, in an area frequented by flocks of cedar waxwings. These trees will provide loads of healthy berries for these hungry birds to eat, and their white flowers are attractive to the human eye as well.
This year, our city’s Tree Commission, Department of Forestry, the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce, and Sylvania Rotary partnered together for an Arbor Day event, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in celebration of area businesses who have weathered the pandemic and served our city through this challenging time. The event, called “Here We Grow Again” brought these partners together to install 21 trees in the park in honor of the 21 businesses receiving honors this year. These large sapling trees included river birch, black gum, Red Sunset maple and sycamore and were planted on the west end of the park by forestry staff and tree commissioners. The Tree Commission will be caring for these trees during their first growing season, watering them and protecting them from deer browsing. Deer are a significant challenge in the park, causing damage to many young sapling trees and often killing them. So some newly planted trees have been enclosed in protective wire fencing, while others have been treated with repellant. Did you know that deer do not like dryer sheets? Yes, we’re even trying out dryer sheets as a repellant on some trees. We’ll let you know how it works!
You can help protect these new trees by not feeding the deer. Feeding deer encourages them to linger too long in the park and browse too heavily on native vegetation. Native plants never have a chance to regrow when they are constantly chewed on, and invasive plants then have a chance to pop up in their place. Deer do not eat invasive plants. As a result, overbrowsing by deer can literally change an ecosystem–for the worse. Deer can also become aggressive when they get used to human contact. So it really is best to avoid feeding them, and instead support their more natural behavior.
The Forestry Department and Tree Commission will be planning outreach events in the future at Harroun Park. Visitors can look forward to bird tours and plant tours, as quarantine restrictions ease. In the meantime, be sure to visit the park this spring. You can find numerous species of birds arriving to the area during spring migration this May, including warblers, Baltimore orioles, Rose-breasted grosbeaks, green herons, indigo buntings and many more. Sylvania Rotary has replaced the shelter alongside the river, it is a wonderful place to sit and relax. The Farmer’s Market will also take place at the park this year, on Tuesdays from 4-7pm. Harroun Park really is the place to visit in Sylvania this year, we hope to see you in the park soon!