Courtesy of Michael Smith

November 4, 2019

Invasive Plants out, Native Plants in: City of Ithaca Implements Biodiversity Revival Program

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On Oct. 28, the Town of Ithaca announced that it will undertake a $51,000 project to remove invasive plant species along the South Hill Recreation Way in hopes of promoting biodiversity and natural wildlife.

The project was inspired by the desire of the Town of Ithaca “to help promote biodiversity, provide shelter and food (nectar, pollen, seeds, nuts, leaves, etc.) for wildlife, and support pollinators,” wrote Michael Smith, senior planner of the Town of Ithaca, in a press release.

Smith went on to explain that because the invasive plants have “altered the native ecosystem … and do not provide the appropriate food or habitat for native wildlife,” they must be removed. This includes species such as Honeysuckle, Common Buckthorn, Japanese Barberry and Norway Maple. The replacements will be native trees and shrubs such as Sugar Maple, American Sycamore and White/Red Oaks, according to the press release.

The project will take place along the entire 3.4-mile-long South Hill Recreation Way during this fall and winter, said Smith. During the project, town staff and hired specialists will be cutting down woody invasive plants and treating the stumps with an herbicide on approximately 15 feet from each side of the trail, according to a press release sent by the Town of Ithaca.

During the course of this project, the trail will remain open, Smith told The Sun in an email.

However, even though no work will take place on private property, there will still be a noticeable effect on property owners nearby: “Adjacent private property owners may experience fewer plants between their property and the trail prior [and] a large amount of dead woody vegetation left to decay along the trail,” Smith said in the email.

Each year, the Town Board allocates money to be used towards eliminating invasive species on different Town-owned parks and trials. For example, over the past years, invasives were removed and native plants were planted [with] tree tubes or fences to protect them along the East Ithaca Recreation Way, according to Smith.

The $51,000 grant that the town received this year — issued by the Urban and Community Forestry Grants Program under the New York State Department of Environmental Conservatism — is limited to include “only the removal of woody invasive plants, so other invasives like swallow-wort or garlic mustard would not be removed as part of this project,” Smith said.

Smith hoped that this project will inspire private landowners along the trail to also participate in removing the invasive plants on their property. To better involve the community, the town plans to hold a public event towards the end of the project to help with the native planting next spring and summer.