Mendota Heights greenlights more invasive plant removal, prairie restoration

file photo • The Mendota Heights City Council approved plans May 1 for prairie management at the Pilot Knob Preservation Open Space, as well as invasive plant species removal at two other parks.

On May 1, the Mendota Heights City Council approved plans for more work to be done on removing invasive plant species from Valley Park and Rogers Lake Park, as well as continued work at the Pilot Knob Preservation Open Space.

Ryan Ruzek, public works director, said Great River Greening was set to go for invasive plant and prairie management at the sites.

Over the last several years, Great River Greening has assisted the city in invasive species management at Valley Park.

In 2018, Ruzek said there is also a proposal to continue work at Rogers Lake Park. 

“Great River Greening is proposing to have three smaller events, which would help control the buckthorn and garlic mustard,” Ruzek said.

In addition, other work would include prairie management and preservation at Pilot Knob.


Work plans

Ruzek said Great River Greening is proposing to conduct three private volunteer events at Rogers Lake Park to continue with buckthorn removal. In terms of maintenance, the group would continue to monitor last year’s cut area for buckthorn sprouts and re-sprouts, as well as monitor garlic mustard infestation. 

The city would pay $7,500 for the removal.

Work at Valley Park that has already been done includes two community events to remove buckthorn and seed the area with native plants.

Great River Greening would do additional maintenance on spot areas with invasive plants. Ruzek said the city would pay $2,500 for that work.

The 2018 work plan for the Pilot Knob Preservation Open Space area includes re-doing the prairie reconstruction on eight acres in the north half of the park. 

“The first prairie management, we are getting some good species there but they’re not seeing the diversity that they were expecting,” Ruzek said. 

Work will include switching some areas to more pollinator-friendly shrubs and replanting the prairie areas. 

Additional work will include improving hill prairie grass and conservation haying, among other work. Ruzek said staff met with Dakota County, Great River Greening and the Pilot Knob Preservation Association to walk the site. He said Great River Greening is proposing to put together a management plan for the area, which will include additional improvements. 

Other maintenance work at Pilot Knob this year will include invasive species management, right-of-way management and monitoring. The cost to the city for that work is $10,700.


Firsthand experience

Council member Liz Petschel said she worked an event at Valley Park earlier this year.

“It’s a mistake necessarily to think it’s in the park. We got on the trail and went deep into the trail and took a deer path down to the stream and cut all the buckthorn on the bank of the stream,” she said. 

Petschel said the amount of buckthorn they cut that day was “astounding.” She said the hardest part of removing invasive species and the replacement of them with natural planting is how much patience it takes. 

Petschel said the work done at Pilot Knob speaks for itself, especially when thinking about its previous state.

She added that it would be a mistake to not include Great River Greening when the city is looking at its natural resources planning along with its long-term comprehensive plan.

Council member Ultan Duggan asked about other areas in the city with buckthorn and when they would be addressed. Ruzek said staff is working on a plan. 

On May 16, there is a joint Parks and Recreation Commission and city council meeting, which will be geared toward natural resources. At the meeting, the commission and council intend to look at updating the city’s natural resource plan, which could include more citywide improvements. 

Ruzek said other citizen volunteer groups are also looking to help with improvements. 

The council approved the work plans unanimously.


— Hannah Burlingame

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