Many of the forested areas in our region have become overgrown with non-native plants, such as Bush Honeysuckle. Left unchecked, these fast growing and aggressive plants have the ability to take over an entire ecosystem. Working with partners and volunteers, Great Rivers Greenway has been taking steps to remove these invasive plants, replacing them with native trees and shrubs.
In 2018, 11.6 acres of invasive plants were removed along the greenways, and 415 trees were planted in their place!
The prairies of North America once covered more than 200 million acres incluing much of the St. Louis region. Sadly, less than 1% of prairie habitat remains today. Prairie grasses have evolved to survive the harsh climates where they grow. Bitter winters, long hot summers, strong winds, fires and grazing both challenge and ensure a prairie’s ability to survive and thrive. The roots of prairie plants go deep into the ground and allow them to absorb water in times of drought. The leaves and stems of some plants have hairy surfaces to deflect sun and wind and others can be waxy or leatherlike to shield from water loss. Prairie plant buds are found at or below ground level and are protected from the fire that helps keep woody plants in check and control invasive species. Once established, these plants require little to no ongoing maintenance and provide immense benefits to native wildlife. With all these benefits in mind, we have been working with partners on several large prairie restoration projects along greenways.
Great Rivers Greenway works to restore and maintain the long-term health of the waterways that parallel many of our greenways. We partner with several organizations around the region to hold scheduled cleanup days, such as the Confluence Trash Bash and River des Peres Trash Bash, which draw hundreds of volunteers to pool their efforts and remove tons of trash and debris in just a few hours. Beyond trash and tires, the streambanks along many of our region’s waterways have become overgrown with invasive species. We work with partners and volunteers throughout the region to coordinate the removal of these non-native plants, replacing them with native plant varieties with strong root systems. Increasingly, we have utililzed partners and volunteers to plant live willow stakes along waterways. These stakes thrive in wet conditions and grow quickly, providing benefits to the streambanks and wildlife.
Great Rivers Greenway knows that we are just one organization working towards healthier watersheds and habitats. We cannot do it alone. It takes many organizations working together to truly make a difference. As such, we engage with hundreds of partners throughout the region, including many municipalities, park districts and other organizations that handle the day to day maintenance and operations of our region’s network of greenways. We understand that we are all working together, and to that end, we provide a variety of training opportunities throughout the year, at little or no-cost to participating organizations. These workshops and seminars provide attendees with the chance to gain hands-on experience with a variety of conservation related operations while also meeting with and learning from experts in a variety of areas, including:
- Stormwater management
- Prescribed fire
- Native plantings
- Chainsaw operation