Councilwoman Lisa Diller - Democrat, 5th District, New Castle County Council
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Getting rid of a thorny issue at Iron Hill ParkConservation crew removes invasive multiflora rose shrubs
By CHAD LIVENGOOD • The News Journal • June 16, 2010
 

There have been sounds of people shrieking coming from the woods over the past two weeks at Iron Hill Park.

They are the sounds of National Civilian Conservation Corps (NCCC) workers removing the thorny multiflora rose, an invasive species, along the 330-acre park’s trails and roads.

“It’s a really painful process,” said Alejandro Ramirez, a corps member from Gainesville, Ga.

A crew of 10 NCCC members is in its second of three weeks of working to remove patches of multiflora rose up to 20 feet wide along the trails and roadways in the county park at Old Baltimore Pike and Whittaker Road.
 
Multiflora rose, which originated in eastern Asia and blooms in late June, was introduced to Delaware and other mid-Atlantic states in the 1930s to prevent soil erosion and create a natural hedge for grazing livestock.
 
But as birds spread the plant's seeds, multiflora rose moved into forest land.Because of its thorny stems, few animals or birds consume it and thus contain the plant's spread, Ramirez said."That's part of the problem," he said.As the plant spreads across a forest floor, multiflora rose will choke out native plants.
 
"If this takes over, then nothing else will grow, probably," said Sara Chandler, a 23-year-old Wilmington native who joined NCCC in February.Chandler is the lone Delawarean on the crew. She also has worked on a recent NCCC project to remove multiflora rose and other invasive species at the St. Jones Reserve near Dover and Blackbird Creek Reserve near Townsend, which are part of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve.NCCC is an arm of AmeriCorps.
 
The 10-person crew working at Iron Hill Park is staying at an AmeriCorps base in Perry Point, Md., through the end of next week.New Castle County, the Friends of Iron Hill boosters group and County Councilwoman Lisa Diller began working last fall to get an NCCC group to take on a conservation project at the park.
 
The park's most pressing ecological need, Diller said, was removing about 10 acres of the multiflora rose, which she described as "a nasty little creature" that "just takes over."The crew is spraying an herbicide on small multiflora rose plants.  But larger plants require cutting off the plant at the base and then using a pickax to dig out the root, Ramirez said.  And leather gloves and long-sleeve shirts are not always enough protection from the plant's thorny stems.
 
Paul Johnson, property manager for New Castle County, said the plant is a persistent problem throughout municipal, county and state parks in New Castle County."It's been an issue for quite some time and it will continue to be an issue," said Johnson, whose department maintains 8,000 acres of parkland in New Castle County.But the conservation corps' work will help some native plants come back to life along park trails, Johnson said."Because we have so many parks and so much acreage, our guys never get a chance to do any remediation," Johnson said.
 
Contact Chad Livengood at 324-2832 or clivengood@delawareonlinwe.com.
 
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