A mile of shoreline along the Little Arkansas River is about to get greener.
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, Wichita resident Hoyt Hillman is leading an initiative Saturday to restore native grasses and plants along sections of riverbank over the next year. It’s an ongoing effort by the Kansas master naturalist and volunteer coordinator to “landscape” away some of the Canada geese living in Sedgwick County.
“It takes the parks away from the geese, and returns the parks to the people, where they belong,” Hillman said.
Volunteers will meet from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in front of the Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., to plant more than 50 pounds of flower seeds, grasses and plants native to Kansas along about a mile of Little Arkansas River shoreline.
“It’s going to be a party,” said Hillman. “ … We encourage people to bring their own native plants to flesh it out.”
He said he got the idea after a survey by the Wichita Initiative to Renew the Environment found city residents were concerned about the quality of the water in the Arkansas River. The initiative, one of the project’s sponsors, is a program of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.
The restoration project is also sponsored by the Wichita Parks and Recreation Department, the Wichita Urban Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, the Ark River Coalition, the GreenWay Alliance, the K-State Extension Master Naturalists Program and the Riverside Neighborhood Association.
The logic behind the plan is simple, according to Hillman: Geese won’t eat native plants. They also won’t build nests in two- to three-foot-tall grasses. Fewer geese hanging around the shoreline means less goose waste in the water.
The taller grasses will also act as a barrier – called a plant buffer strip – to keep debris from washing into the river and stabilize the shoreline. Hillman plans to track erosion along the riverbank and use lab analyses to show decreased fecal content in the water over the next year.
The improvement should be noticeable but won’t make a huge impact without the public’s help, Hillman said.
“The whole point of this whole process is picking a high-visibility location for a public demonstration project so that people can go back to their own homes and think about putting in rain gardens and think about the kinds of waste and materials they are sending down the street in their own sewers,” he said.
“We’re starting the process.”