Invasive plants focus of cleanup at preserve
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 10, 2014 11:20PM
Pat Fisher of New Buffalo, Mich., helps remove invasive plants Saturday in Chesterton during a workday on property owned by the Shirley Heinze Land Trust. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 12, 2014 6:33AM
CHESTERTON — Helping out nature preserves is Pat Fisher’s thing.
So the former Chesterton resident, who now lives nearby in New Buffalo, Mich., spent part of his Saturday clearing invasive plant species on land owned by the Shirley Heinze Land Trust along the Little Calumet River.
Fisher said he “stomps this ground every day” when he takes U.S. 12 to work at ArcelorMittal, and he hikes in both the state and national parks.
“I enjoy nature preserves and the fact that they’re there, so it’s my little thing to make sure they stay,” he said. “If people don’t help, this whole thing will go away.”
The volunteer workday was a first for what’s officially known as the Keith Richard Walner Nature Preserve, on 40 acres behind the parking lot for the Deer Run apartment on West Taylor Street. The trust acquired the preserve in December 2012.
The goal of the workday was to get rid of some of the invasive plants that are established in the portion of the preserve closest to the parking lot, including privet and multiflora rose.
“Neither of them is native to North America, so they tend to grow really weedy and overtake the native plants,” said Paul Quinlan, the trust’s stewardship director, pointing to trillium, bloodroot and native sedges growing close to the ground and competing for resources and space.
While future plans call for a potential trail on the property, the focus Saturday was tackling invasive plants where they were most prominent. Invasive plants make up about 5 percent of the plants in other parts of the preserve but in the 10 acres by the apartment, the percentage was 40 or 50 percent.
“It’s good to finally get some boots on the ground and start doing something,” he said.
Also pitching in was Tod Ryzewski of Valparaiso, who’s done a couple other workdays with Shirley Heinze.
“It’s local, which makes it easy, and if something’s in the ballpark, I try to go,” he said. “Plus, I like being outside all the time.”