The Waitsfield Conservation Commission (WCC) will hold its final planned Community Stewardship Day on Saturday, October 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Community Stewardship Day is an opportunity for the local community to learn about invasive plant control as well as lend a hand stewarding an important flood plain on the town-owned Austin Parcel.
It is the culmination of a two-year effort to implement best practices, control invasive plants at the Austin Parcel, jump start the reestablishment of a native flood plain forest and educate the community about the invasive plant challenges facing the Mad River Valley.
The pilot program appears to have been successful in knocking back and managing invasive species in the riparian corridor, which is allowing a native forest to grow in that area.
“It is, however, too early for final conclusions. However, interim results are very positive with key invasives (honeysuckle and buckthorn) being aggressively managed. In addition the target knotweed patches that have been knocked back show significant stress. In turn, native regrowth has been vigorous, supported by plantings with a high survival rate,” said Mark Haberle, the conservation commission member who has been the point person for the project.
Haberle said the latest professional stewardship visit resulted in nearly 100 invasive mother plants having been cleared, close to 150 shrubs cut and 40 hours of professional labor applied to the site including knotweed scything and weed whacking. These numbers are for just one of six Professional Stewardship Days and three Community Stewardship Days. He said that pictures don’t do it justice and an on-site visit is critical to understand the positive effect this work has had.
Over the past decade, several studies of the rapid growth of invasive species have noted the benefits of a forest restoration effort at the Austin Parcel in addition to the need to act quickly. This opportunity is reflected in the Waitsfield Town Plan and Wu Ledges Forest Management Plan. In 2017, guided by these plans and with significant input from the community, the WCC initiated a two-year demonstration project.
Over the past two years the commission has worked closely with the Intervale Conservation Nursery (ICN) and its partners the Mad River Path Association and Friends of the Mad River, not only to implement invasive plant control measures but also to kick-start the reestablishment of a healthy and functioning flood plain forest of native species on the 5-acre Austin Parcel.
Invasive plants are a watershedwide concern and there are several active efforts to better manage them in support of balanced native ecosystems in the Mad River Valley. Recognizing this, the objectives of the Austin Parcel demonstration project include providing learning opportunities for the community about invasive plant management, acquisition of solid metrics on control measure effectiveness and repointing the ecological trajectory of the Austin Parcel toward a flood plain forest.
On October 19, participants in the Community Stewardship Day will have an opportunity to work side by side with professionals from ICN, Friends of the Mad River, the Mad River Path, community members and the WCC to learn about and execute control techniques for Japanese knotweed, honeysuckle, buckthorn and other invasive species. In addition, there will be opportunities to participate in flood plain forest restoration by helping plant native tree and shrub species. Volunteers can take what they learn home to help manage invasive species on their own property.
As noted, a number of invasive plant management efforts are underway in the Mad River Valley. The town of Waitsfield, the town of Warren and many local residents recognize the benefits of invasive plant control and have committed resources to their control. This is reflective of the importance of the topic and commitment of The Valley community to the healthy function of native ecosystems. The Community Stewardship Day provides the opportunity to illustrate that commitment.
Mike Ingalls of ICN notes, “This is a good model for a community effort toward best practices in the battle against invasive species and managing the land for conservation.”
Join us for an hour or two or stay all day. Please bring snacks (some will be provided, like donated cheese from Cabot Creamery), water, clothing, work gloves and footwear appropriate for the weather. People are welcome to bring their favorite hand tools for removing invasive plants and planting native species, but tools will also be provided. The Community Stewardship Day will go on rain or shine and participants are asked to carpool and park at Lareau Swim Hole.