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September Program Recap by WORC members Eric Piehl and Marty MacCleery

Wild Ones River City Chapter members and friends met at Roselle Park’s Community Room, a gem in the crown of Ada Township Park properties, for the September 18 program. The meeting had two parts:  inside and outside. The inside part was a series of lightning talks with slides by people from some of our local parks departments. It was very interesting to hear their views on what we do at Wild Ones, updates on some of their projects, and some of the projects where we cooperate. Those were perspectives that we don’t hear very much which made it fascinating.

Ginny Wanty, the organizer of this program, gave some opening remarks about stewardship including the Master Naturalist program at MSU Extension that she led from 2006 to 2018 in which 400 citizen scientists participated. She thanked and introduced each of the 3 park representatives who presented their park’s individual concepts of Stewardship, Community Engagement, and Volunteerism. These park representatives were: David Marquardt, Director, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation, Ginny Sines, Volunteer Coordinator, Kent County Parks, and Melanie Manion, Natural Resources Manager, Ottawa County Parks. Each of them acknowledged the leadership role of Wild Ones River City Chapter in the community and their sincere support. We also learned that Kent County Parks really DOES boast the most volunteerism of any county in the U.S.! It was also gratifying to hear the about the projects going on at some of our parks and the synergy taking place between different Park departments.

In accordance with the COVID-19 rules, everyone in the room was masked except for each speaker during their talk. The last speaker, Melanie Manion, said that although she was vaccinated, she had two small children at home who were not, and thus decided to stay masked. We were all delighted when her teacher-voice filled the room, right through her mask. The system works!

Also the Pick a Park Concept was introduced—Wild Ones River City (WORC) members and friends were encouraged to contact their local park or natural area to see how they could become involved in invasive species monitoring and removal as well as how to assist in restoration efforts.

The outside part of the program was a walk-and-talk (and-do!) activity: hunting invasive plants that are causing problems in the park. Jessie Schulte, District manager of Kent Conservation District, led us on a short walk, identifying various plant species, some good, some bad, and showing how to manage them. Attendees were then challenged to identify new examples of the plants they had just learned, and offered the opportunity to treat some themselves. One attendee enthusiastically volunteered to scamper down a steep slope and attack a thick stand of Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) using a very-sharp folding saw and a small amount of herbicide.

Succeeding in clearing the stand, the attendee was surprised to see that she was now standing in a sea of ankle-high eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). (Fun fact! Despite its common and scientific names, poison ivy is not poisonous, nor even toxic—it has an allergen.  And despite its common name, poison ivy is not an ivy (genus Hedera), either.) OK, poison ivy is a hazard for all of us Michiganders who love to go off-trail.

Then our unfortunate volunteer pointed out that although she had on tough shoes and jeans, she had no socks covering her ankles in-between. Uh, oh. That prompted a short discussion of how much time you have to wash off the allergen—10 minutes, and what you can use to wash it off—soap and water, lots of it.  Or hand sanitizer, lots of it, let it drip off or wipe it off onto something.  Several attendees expressed surprise at that last part—it is the alcohol.  No one in the group had soap and water, nor large quantities of hand sanitizer, so I am not sure what our attendee did.  Let us hope she is among the 30% of people who are NOT allergic to poison ivy!  You never know when you are going to learn something new!

Thank you to our other sponsors: Jessie Schulte, Kent Conservation District, Mark Fitzpatrick, Ada Parks and Recreation Director, Ginny Wanty, retired MSU Extension Master Naturalist Coordinator, and Eric Piehl for technical support.

Below is a list of conservation organizations needing volunteers:

Oriental Bittersweet photo by Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,
Poison Ivy photo by Paul Wray, Iowa State University,