Preserving the ecological integrity of a treasured and vital park
The park’s 76 acres of hardwood oak forest, prairie/savanna, and wetlands provide habitat for a variety of wildlife and an escape to nature for cross-country skiing, hiking, bird watching, picnicking, and canoeing on Long Lake.
But, the ecological integrity of the area is threatened by non-native invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle shrubs.
Great River Greening has begun to work with Mahtomedi on the city’s master plan for the park that emphasizes the importance of managing the ecosystem, and will host a volunteer “Buckthorn Blast” event in the spring as the first phase of the restoration.
Many volunteer groups have helped clear buckthorn from the park over the years. But the master plan provides for a more focused and better-funded approach to restoration, as well as improving trails, access, and education at the trailheads.
- Vital to wildlife habitat
“Once upon a time, the park was an oak forest with prairie remnants, “ Public Works Director Bruce Thielen told the White Bear Press. “Through the years, a horrible buckthorn problem has emerged… I don’t think it can be eradicated, but if we don’t get a handle, the park’s ecosystem will degrade to the point it won’t regenerate itself.”
Great River Greening ecologist Wiley Buck said the habitat and ecological values of the park are high as it is lies as open natural space between Lake Elmo Regional Park, to the south, and a concentration of natural areas in northern Washington County. Along with removal, burning, seeding, and planting over an extended period are needed to complete the restoration.
Why bust buckthorn
Buck said, “Buckthorn is problematic in many ways: It shades out native grasses, flowers, shrubs and the young oaks that will one day replace the majestic oaks. It has also recently been identified as emitting a chemical that has a negative effect on the reproduction of the western chorus frog – and others – found in the sort of wetlands you see in Katherine Abbott Park.”
Katherine Abbott Park is named for a woman who shepherded the idea of making it a Girl Scout camp, which it was from 1952 to 1989, when the City purchased the parcel and opened it up as a community park.
Funders and Partners
Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and City of Mahtomedi.