Easter Lake North Shore Woodland Restoration Project
Easter Lake North Shore Woodland Restoration Project 2021 - 2023
Polk County Conservation is converting approximately 15 acres of overgrown woodland along the northern boundary of Easter Lake Park back to a native oak-hickory savanna. Polk County Conservation staff visits to the areas verified the presence of numerous non-native trees and a low-value herbaceous layer habitat. This spurred Natural Resources Staff to create a management plan for this area. The objectives of this plan include:
- Reduction in invasive and non-native species
- Improvement in wildlife habitat, increases in wildlife use, and opportunities for public to view wildlife
- Increased infiltration of storm water
- Improvement in aesthetic properties
To facilitate a phased restoration process, the restoration area has been split into three sections. This will create a more gradual transition of the landscape, allowing wildlife and residents to adjust and respond to the drastic changes.
Restoration will begin on the east side of the area in Section 1, and proceed to the west on a three-year time schedule. The following steps will occur in each section:
Removal of existing vegetation: Non-native and undesirable trees and woody vegetation will be removed by a Contractor. Tree removal must occur between October 1st and March 31st of each year according to federal guidelines for endangered bat species. A combination of herbicide and tillage will be used to remove existing herbaceous vegetation and invasive species.
Native Seeding: The seeding will be a diverse mix of native grasses (10+), sedges (5+) and wildflowers (50+) that will enhance aesthetic appeal, improve water quality via infiltration and provide quality habitat for wildlife.
Tree planting: Once the prairie seeding has occurred, native oak species (e.g., bur and white) will be planted at a low density (10-20 per acre) to complete the transition of this area to a savanna ecosystem.
Post-Planting Maintenance: The area will be mowed two or three times during the first growing season after planting to open the plant canopy and allow light to reach the young prairie seedling. Mowing also limits seed set by rapidly-growing annual weeds and thus limits the potential for future competition. Depending on weed pressure, the area will be mowed one or two times a year after planting.
Beginning the third year after prairie planting, the area will be burned on a 5 year interval to achieve the following:
- Removal of thatch making it easier for plants to grow
- Recycling of nutrients bound up in thatch
- Increasing soil temperature due to removal of shading and blackening of soil surface; this favors warm-season native species
- Mortality of remaining annual weed seedlings.
Burns will be conducted under conditions that will carry smoke away from houses. Limitations on burning due to the site’s urban location may necessitate the use of alternatives to prescribed burning, such as grazing.
Spot-spraying will be implemented to control perennial weeds beginning the third year after planting, if needed.
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