After Glenn Olson saw how the invasive buckthorn was wreaking havoc on city-owned conservation areas, he decided to help.
“I spent half my time on my own conservation area up north, so I haven’t been using this as much,” said the longtime Eden Prairie resident. “I was like, ‘What the heck happened here?’ I was just in disbelief how bad it was.”
Olson organized several recent volunteer efforts to clear buckthorn from the Edenbrook Conservation Area with the city’s blessing. The work is concentrated on an eastern section chosen because of its natural boundaries.
He’s planning another volunteer opportunity to remove buckthorn there from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 16. Volunteers will meet at the Edenbrook East entrance, 6620 Duck Lake Road.
The community service project is sponsored by the Eden Prairie AM Rotary Club (Olson is a member), the Edenbrook East neighbors, and the City of Eden Prairie.
“Are you going to let it take over, or are you going to do something about it?” he asked. “We’re trying to do something about it. The city can’t do it alone, we can’t do it alone, we need the whole community to be involved.”
Lauren Stufft, the city’s forestry and natural resources specialist, called buckthorn the most prevalent invasive woody plant in Eden Prairie. These highly invasive, non-native species cause ecosystem degradation.
“It’s probably damaged the most habitat,” Stufft said.
The city has limited resources to remove buckthorn from its 2,000 acres of natural spaces, she said. Help from the public is solicited on the city website’s buckthorn page.
“It’s past the point of being able to manage it on all of our lands,” Stufft said. “Volunteers are essential to making sure we can target areas of high importance.”
A former biology teacher who worked in the financial services business, Olson is hopeful his group’s volunteer efforts can make a difference.
“If we can control this and plant wildflowers and native shrubs and try to maintain it, at least we’re going to have an area to control,” Olson said. “If we can get this to work, we need to get other help in other areas.”
Olson and volunteer Wayne Francisco pointed out the buckthorn on a recent trek into Edenbrook off Duck Lake Road.
“You get one little buckthorn, and you got thousands of seeds, and next you get thousands of trees,” said Francisco, who has lived on the edge of the woods for 50 years.
“They are a very tenacious enemy,” Olson said of buckthorn. “The deer don’t eat buckthorn. It has no natural enemies.”
In Edenbrook, Olson said the buckthorn is creating a double canopy blocking light for native forest plants and shrubs.
He said the denseness of the buckthorn, especially on the west side, makes walking on the trail feel like you’re in a tunnel.
“You can’t see anything above you, to the left of you, to the right of you,” Olson said. “All the parks in Eden Prairie and Minnetonka and other cities are going to look like that if nothing’s done.”
For more information on volunteering, email Olson at email@example.com. If people can’t volunteer on Oct. 16 but are interested in helping in the future, Olson wants to hear from them. He will put them on an email list for additional volunteer opportunities in the spring.