Honeysuckle shrubs suffered a setback Saturday in Chisholm Creek Park.
Volunteers yanked as many of the invasive bush honeysuckles out by the roots as they could in sections of the park during the Great Plains Nature Center’s “Workday in the Park” event.
The volunteers were fighting a battle to prevent the bushes from monopolizing the soil moisture and preventing the germination of native plants, among other unfortunate results wrought by bush honeysuckles.
Bush honeysuckles have formed nearly impenetrable masses in some areas of the park, said Jim Mason, a naturalist with the Wichita Parks Department. But the volunteers were making some headway against them in a section of the park along Island Pond.
“That work makes a huge difference,” said Mason, who was working alongside the volunteers. “However much we can get done today is going to serve well for the park. You’ve got to be optimistic about it. It takes time and it takes effort, and every bit of effort we apply to it is a good thing.”
About 60 volunteers participated in the cleanup, which is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. In addition to clearing out invasive species of bushes, volunteers cleaned up after recent controlled burns and picked up litter along 29th Street North and along Woodlawn, which border the park.
The volunteers included Boy Scouts and some employees of Southwest Airlines.
The event lasted only three hours Saturday morning, but even that limited amount of work makes a difference, Mason said.
“We have seen that volunteers can have a tremendous impact on programs and projects like this, not only at this but other parks,” he said.
Volunteers who pulled up the honeysuckle bushes were working in an area that is hard to reach by trucks, which can bring in herbicidal sprays. The workers often had to use shovels to dig out roots.
“Somebody has to do it, and you never have enough volunteers,” said Slim Gieser, 67, one of the volunteers fighting the honeysuckle.
Volunteers who worked in the sections of the park that had been burned were trying to locate woody material that was loose on the ground and put it in a pile so that next year’s burn will consume them entirely.
Burns are conducted around the end of March each year to limit the encroachment of woody plants and to promote the overall health of the park, Mason said. Until the next burn, the piles provide a bit of a habitat for animals, Mason said.
Along 29th Street North, Derek Casey, assistant scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 510, had 10 Scouts and six adults picking up trash that had blown into the trees that line the park. Other troop members worked along Woodlawn.
Casey said his troop meets at a nearby church and frequently uses the park.
“It’s a good chance for us to give back,” he said.
They were hauling out many trash bags. The amount of litter inside the park wasn’t too bad, but the trees screening the park from traffic were full of windblown trash, Casey said.
They found a hubcap and a sleeping bag along with the usual food and candy wrappers, said Robert Safley, 11, a member of the troop.
The work was worth it, he said.
“It helps make the park look a lot cleaner and prettier,” Robert said.