Working The Wetlands during COVID

Dealing with a pandemic has shown us two things:
How people working together can improve each other’s lives, and how important our City parks are to each of us.

In this time of stress and social distancing, our natural areas have been safe spaces to relax, enjoy the James River, and interact with our natural world – while being mindful of others and social distancing! The James River Park System is the perfect place for this, and it’s great that so many more people have been taking advantage of it during this time. A great example of an area that has seen an increase in visitors is The Wetlands on the Southern banks of the James.

But many are unaware that a danger is slowly spreading in the Park.

There is a constant influx of organisms to our Park, and many of them are unwelcome. They creep in from neighboring lawns, a brought in aloft by winds and rain, and even delivered by the birds that call the area home. They are not native, invasive, and unwanted.

When you walk through The Wetlands, you can see Privet and Mimosa trees, Bush Honeysuckle, English Ivy, and a ground crawling plant called Wintercreeper. None of these are supposed to be there. They aren’t even native to Virginia! But there are no bugs or animals that combat these pest plants, and they thrive without sufficient competition. They’ve claimed as much as 75% of the plant growth in The Wetlands. As a result, The Wetlands becomes less resilient to flooding, to drought, and less able to keep up with the daily stress of human visitors.

But just like COVID-19 has shown how people can come together, groups of amazing volunteers have come together to combat invasive species in The Wetlands.

Since November (way BEFORE the pandemic) over 100 volunteers have worked to rip up, saw away, and haul out over a ton of invasive plant material, giving native plants an opportunity to thrive. We’ve seen a recover of Bluebells, and a wonderful explosion of Lizard’s Tail. Just in July, our volunteers cleared an area 30 feet deep from the Landria Drive entrance all the way to the boat launch. This is over an acre of land.

The work of these volunteers is amazing, and the before and after images below show the amazing impact of their work.

overgrown plants
overgrown plants

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