Whitemarsh Park Weed Warriors
What is a Weed Warrior?
A Weed Warrior is a volunteer who works alongside members of the City's Green Team to stop the assault on the forest at Whitemarsh Park by the non-native, invasive English ivy vine.
This volunteer program began in July 2013, and Weed Warriors meet in fall and spring months on either a Saturday or Sunday to remove English ivy from trees, starting along the driveway leading back to the Bowie Playhouse and eventually working into other areas of Whitemarsh Park.
What is English ivy, and why have a special program for it?
Everyone has probably seen English ivy on trees in their yards or their neighbors' yards, along neighborhood streets and streams, and in local parks like this tree (right) at Whitemarsh Park. Odds are that it was not planted there. As an invasive, non-native plant, English ivy spreads quickly and easily, and is very destructive to native ecosystems. It can strangle trees at their base, and when it reaches up into the tree's canopy, the added weight can easily topple the tree in a storm, particularly when the tree is also covered in snow.
In early 2013, the City worked with a consultant to identify the types and extent of non-native, invasive species in two parks (Tanglewood and Whitemarsh) and other forested city properties. They found more than a dozen invasive species in Whitemarsh Park alone. They recommended certain activities including a volunteer program to help with English ivy in Whitemarsh Park.
But I don't know how to cut English ivy vines!
Did you know that trees can be damaged during the process of removing ivy? Don't worry - you'll be fully trained in proper techniques of removing vines without damaging trees. The first 15 minutes or so of each Weed Warrior event will be spent demonstrating proper removal techniques and tool use.
A quick summary of the process is that you cut the ivy stems at eye-level and foot-level then carefully pull the vine from the tree between the cuts and back about two feet from the base of the tree. The ivy above eye level will eventually die off and fall from the tree.
This process takes a lot of elbow grease, and sometimes loppers and pruners are needed to remove vines from trees. The older ivy vines can be quite large (as much as 2-3 inches across or more) and may require intervention from a team leader using a hand saw to remove the vine.
Once the ivy is removed, it is bagged and sent to the landfill. Why not compost it like other yard waste? If sent with yard waste to the County's compost facility and one vine survives the compost process and is applied to someone's yard, it can quickly take over. All non-native, invasive plants should be disposed of in the trash.
Okay, I'm in! When is it and how do I sign up?
We do have to limit the number of volunteers we can accommodate based on the availability of tools, so you must register to join us. Email the City's Sustainability Planner, Kristin Larson, to register (or call 301-809-3044).
Age restrictions are as follows: Children age 14 and younger must be under the direct supervision of a parent/guardian or Troop Leader at all times, and no volunteers under age 16 can use tools.
When are we working?
The dates for upcoming work days can be found on the Weed Warrior Schedule.
Do I have to bring anything?
If you've ever come to a stream cleanup, you probably already know what to bring. You'll need to dress appropriately and bring the release form (we will have extras that day), and the City will provide everything else. That includes gloves, water, tools, insect and poison ivy repellent, and bags. Items you may wish to bring include knee pads for working around the base of trees and a snack.
Is there anything else I should know?
Yes. We will be working in the woods along the driveway back to the Bowie Playhouse. Because we are in a forest setting, there is the potential for ticks, stinging insects and poison ivy. If you are allergic to bees or wasps and have an EpiPen, please be sure to have it with you when you come! When you RSVP, you will receive additional details on what to wear.