February 26, 2021

What Happens in the Parks During Winter?

Did you know our natural resources team at Brownsburg Parks continues to work in our parks during the winter? Taking care of our natural resources doesn’t stop because of snow. In fact, some tasks are specifically timed for the cold season, such as invasive plant species removal.

Because many other ecological restoration tasks must occur during the growing season in spring and summer, the winter is often reserved for clearing out honeysuckle, burning bush, and other invasive plants.

The frozen ground allows us to use heavy machinery like forestry mowers to do a mass clearing of invasive plants, which contribute to the declining health of trees and erosion issues along the Maple Ridge Trail at Williams Park.

“Williams Park is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in Brownsburg,” said Natural Resources Manager Joseph Sakhong. “In addition to the creek that runs through the park and wildlife that lives within the woods, our park offers a wide variety of plant species, some native to Indiana and some brought in from elsewhere.”

It is essential to remove invasive plants from Williams Parks’ woodlands that choke out the natives and contribute to the woods’ and trails’ decline. This helps to ensure the long-term sustainability of flora and fauna within our park system.

While most invasive plant removal has been done by hand this year with volunteers through Weed Wrangle events in partnership with Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasive Management and Hendricks County Invasive Management Cooperative, some larger plants had to be “forestry mowed” as well.

The Forestry Mower

While forestry mowing has its limitations, it has proven to be cost-effective, efficient, and safe for the environment.

Forestry mowing creates mulch that leaves the soil structure intact, reducing and eliminating the possibility of erosion. This prevents invasive plant species from growing back even thicker. The mulch also keeps the soil in place to protect root systems and natural grasses. This benefits the parkland over time by helping to keep the property’s drainage in good shape. Also, forestry mowing can increase the value of nearby homes by enhancing the park’s visual appeal.

Clearing the Way for Natural Plants

Whether by hand or through forestry mowing, winter is an important time for removing invasive plant species. It is the first step towards restoring our parkland and helps to sets priorities for our restoration work for the rest of the year, including follow up treatments with herbicide for resprouts.

In the spring, the area will be seeded with rye grass to reduce unwanted weed growth and stabilize the soil. It will take three to five growing seasons for the forest to completely grow back in a healthy state. During that time, our natural resources team will go back in and replant native plants and trees that will not only thrive but help keep invasive plants from growing back.