Cambridge DNR Forestry 4th annual forest landowner fall tour
By Beth Jones, Mark Ellison, Alan Olson and Art Widerstrom, MN DNR-Forestry
October 16, 2008, was a beautiful fall day as approximately 45 landowners converged upon the Plymouth Creek Civic Center for the fall landowner tour. The gardens at the civic center were something to be admired. The fall blossoms and extensive landscaping was a welcome sight in the middle of the city.
Tour organizers and DNR foresters, Art Widerstrom and Alan Olson, welcomed the group and we excitedly boarded a tour bus to visit several sites within Hennepin County. The first stop was at Doug Dayton’s property. His diverse property supports both a 90-acre prairie and a 20-acre stand of big woods. The prairie was planted and is being managed by Prairie Restorations using prescribed fire.
Stephanie Jenniges, Land Management Coordinator, from Prairie Restorations spoke about prairie management, some of the plants, several invasive species and the need for this site to be burned periodically to maintain a healthy prairie.
Alan Olson took the group on a hike through the woods to see a prime example of a big woods forest. The massive oaks, basswoods and maples form a dense canopy, which limits the amount of brush and undergrowth making the walk through the woods a very enjoyable one. Walking up the hill on this warm fall day, hearing the leaves rustle and crunch beneath our feet, made it seem like we were deep in the north woods.
The next stop was in the city of Minnetonka at Purgatory Park. Our tour guide for the park was Janet Van Sloun Larson, Natural Resource Specialist for the City of Minnetonka. This area includes a wetland that the settlers could not utilize for agriculture, thus it later was developed into a park. The park is very popular for walking dogs and offers citizens an escape to a natural area within the city. It was interesting to listen to Janet discuss how they are re-claiming the area by eradicating buckthorn. Several techniques for eradicating buckthorn were discussed and we got to see first-hand the results of several extensive buckthorn removal sites which were managed with the help of volunteers.
Stephanie from Prairie Restorations discussed the utilization of prescribed fire techniques for managing prairie and also discussed how fire can be used to re-establish a historical prairie, such as the one that was discovered in this park. The group got to see where this prairie was discovered and heard how park staff, with the help of Prairie Restorations, used prescribed fire to re-establish the original prairie that was present when the first settlers arrived.
Our tour continued into the Scenic Heights Elementary School Forest, where a local teacher, Dawn Christesen, School Forest Coordinator, has utilized the forest for education of students and other volunteers. They have done a massive buckthorn removal project and have continued to work with Alan Olson to manage the forest and rid it of invasive species. They have planted seedlings within the school forest utilizing Arbor Day seedlings from the State Nursery. There is also a small wetland that is used by the science department to teach lessons on water biology.
Using volunteer help, a shelter was built on the property where classes meet to discuss lessons learned at the outdoor learning center. The local Boy Scouts have been assisting with the buckthorn removal program as one of their Eagle Scout projects. This forest is really integrated into the community.
Next, we proceeded to visit a direct seeding project conducted by the City of Plymouth. City forester Paul Buck spoke with those on the bus regarding the direct seeding procedure and the results of this practice. Seeds were collected locally and the site was ripped and tilled. Fifteen five-gallon buckets of seed were spread by hand and the site was covered with wood chips. The planting has had good survival with very acceptable stocking levels. The planting primarily consisted of black walnut, butternut, bitternut hickory, red and white oak. Cottonwood, poplar, willow and buckthorn that seeded-in have been removed to maintain the original planting.
Our group returned to the Plymouth Creek Civic Center to enjoy a wonderful meal and hear some presentations. Gary Michael, DNR Private Forest Management Coordinator, spoke about the new 2C managed forest land tax program. He covered the requirements to be eligible for the program and made comparisons with the SFIA and green acres tax programs.
Tamara Martin, Ecologist from Top-Notch Urban Ecosystems, gave an informative presentation on invasive species. She brought several samples of invasive plants, discussed how each degrades the environment and recommended eradication techniques that have shown the best results.
Neville Wilson, DNR Central Region Plant Health Specialist, covered the emerald ash borer. He discussed what to watch for in your forest to identify symptoms of emerald ash borer and he also showed samples of the insect and discussed strategies for slowing its rate of spread into our forests.
Alan Olson and Art Widerstrom wrapped up the evening with a big thank you to all who participated.
[A big thank you to Beth, Mark, Alan, and Art for sharing this story! If you’d like to share other events through this site, send your story to potyondy [at] umn [dot] edu anytime. -ed.]