In Spring 2011, the City of Maplewood partnered with the Ramsey County Cooperative Weed Management Area (RCCWMA) to launch a pilot volunteer monitoring program - the Invasive Plant Patrol. The goal of the Plant Patrol is to prevent new, in-coming invasive plants from gaining a foothold. Early detection allows quick action to prevent buckthorn-like takeovers. The plant patrol focuses on a few species that are just starting to come into our area.
How Does the Plant Patrol Work?
The Plant Patrol RCCWMA coordinator recruits and trains volunteers. Each volunteer selects a site to monitor during the growing session. When a species is about to bloom (or when it's easiest to identify it), volunteers receive an email alert to check their sites. If the target species is found, the volunteer records its location with a GPS unit or takes a photo with a smart phone to report it. The coordinator enters species and location data into a national invasive species database, where the data is available to researchers and land managers.
In addition to volunteers, Maplewood parks and public works crew members are on the lookout for target species as they are out and about on their regular assignments.
What Does Volunteering Involve?
Volunteers attend a training session where they learn to identify target species, mark locations with GPS units or smart phones and send in reports. Individuals or partners chose a Maplewood park or natural area to patrol during the growing season, check their emails for species alerts and then patrol their sites for invaders. Hiking may involve rough terrain so volunteers need to be in good physical condition. Once reports are received, management can begin. A typical volunteer will devote 14 or more hours, between April and October. Active volunteers may attend RCCWMA field trips or help with removal events.
Has the Program Made a Difference?
The 20 active volunteers discovered over 100 new invasive plant patches, between April 2011 and October 2012. By the end of 2012, 75 of these had been removed by volunteers or treated with herbicide by staff and other agencies. The value of volunteer time donated to the city was over $8,600.
How Do I Sign Up?
It's easy! Contact Maplewood Nature Center to learn about the next Plant Patrol training session. Sessions are typically offered in March and April.