Large changes are underway for the wooded areas of Easter Lake Park and Ewing Park within the Easter Lake Watershed. Historically these areas included native trees, oak savannas, and even an old apple orchard that was planted by early residents to the area. Unfortunately, these woodlands have been greatly altered in recent years by invasives species including bush honeysuckle, russian olive, buckthorn, oriental bittersweet, and many others.
This has resulted in what we say in the above picture, a wall of invasive vegetation. This mixing pot of invasives has numerous negative effects including choking out native trees, creating poor wildlife habitat, making areas inaccessible for public use, and increased soil erosion into Easter Lake. Erosion is a serious concern which happens when there is so much brush that the forest understory does not recieve any sunlight and nothing will grow. This bare soil then washes away into Easter Lake and Yeader Creek, decreasing water clarity and increasing the potential for dangerous algal blooms.
To combat these invasives that have taken over, Polk County Conservation Board and the City of Des Moines have come up with an aggressive plan to restore the woodlands back to a natural healthy ecosystem.
Starting in the spring of 2014 city and county staff have been clearing areas with a forestry mower to allow sunlight to reach the ground and give native oak trees the room they need to grow. The large equipment pictured below can clear out areas in a matter of days, what would take staff and volunteers years to do.
Above shows and area cleared by the forestry mower on the west side of Easter Lake Park. Many of the trees left are native oaks which were carefully worked around to keep unharmed. In following years these areas will be revisited with pesticide applications and controlled burns to mange the invasive species that resprout. With this series of control measures the invasives will be removed and the woodland areas will be restored.