Eliminating non-native plants is part of responsible forest management

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LEESVILLE – Thousands of tiny red berries hung from the honeysuckle bushes that surrounded Kyle Bailey as he roamed the forest.

“They are not natives,” said the land manager for the Crawford Park district. “There are native honeysuckles, but the ones we are targeting are not native.”

Shrubs are one of the many invasive species that tend to thrive in the forests of Ohio. The list includes fall olive, Japanese barberry, burning bush, privet, glossy buckthorn, and tree of heaven.

“They are shrub trees that only grow to about 20 feet tall and are very wide,” Bailey said. “They are very opportunistic. They take all the sunlight and oust the natives.”

“Free the natives”

That’s why he and a team of naturalists have worked to remove invasive shrubs from the Sandusky Headwaters Preserve, a new park the district will open with a ceremony Thursday at 1 p.m. in front of the Lowe-Volk Nature Center.

“That’s what we mean when we say ‘liberate the natives’,” Bailey said. “You are giving them an opportunity to finally grow up.”

Saturday morning’s working session was one of many public programs Bailey has run since becoming the district’s land manager this spring. His presentations are advertised online at crawfordparkdistrict.org.

Kyle Bailey stands along the Sandusky River in front of a large sandstone rock formation in the new Sandusky Headwaters Preserve in the Crawford Park District.

“I teach people about flora and fauna,” Bailey said. “The different plants and animals they might encounter.”

He explained on Saturday that about 200 years ago, the forests of Buckeye State had very clear soils under their huge canopies. This natural history is very important to conservationists who want the habitat to be fully restored to its intended state.

Landowners who participate in Bailey’s programs are encouraged to take the lessons home and use them in the stewardship of their own properties.

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It turns out that some native species can even be bad neighbors for trees in local forests – for example, wild grapes, which aggressively climb to the top of the wooded canopy, strangling everything in their path.

“We can be good stewards by cutting this vine,” Bailey explained. “We are freeing these trees so they can finally thrive.”

New park a living history book

The waterfront views of the new park will delight visitors to Richland and Crawford counties when it finally opens later this week. Preparing the Sandusky Headwaters Preserve was an enjoyable experience for the park district staff.

“We honestly believe that in the long run this will be our most popular park,” Bailey said. “It’s going to have some great wildlife. This park is designed for nature viewing.”

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Thursday’s ceremony will take place near the on-site parking lot at 2400 Ohio 598. Guests will walk through a meadow to a new staircase that will lead them down a wooded hill to the wetlands below. Several spring pools dot the wetlands, which stretch along the floodplain of the Sandusky River.

“We have a minor woodpecker hanging out with us today,” Bailey said as he walked on a new trail next to the river. “We have a lot of great bird activities here.”

Across the river from the path, a large sandstone bank containing ancient fossils protruded from the side of the hill. It is nothing like the rest of the surrounding farmland.

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“It’s unique for here,” Bailey said. “To get that stuff, you’d have to go to Mohican.”

The natural history of the scene has overtaken the conservationist. He hopes the public will enjoy his new park as much as he does. It’s a lively classroom for anyone who takes a moment to study it.

“A lot of the fossil record here has been erased,” he said. “As with the dinosaurs. We don’t find any dinosaurs in Ohio, but we’re pretty sure there were dinosaurs here. The Ice Age has come and wiped this whole era from the fossil record. pretty cool. ”

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