Volunteers from all over Ohio will converge on Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve Nov. 2 to do two things: Uproot honeysuckle that’s crowding out native wildflowers and cultivate a community of volunteers to take the fight against the wild plant to other state preserves.
With government budgets shrinking and honeysuckle on the move, protecting and preserving native plants “is a big problem throughout the state,” said Rick Gardner, a botanist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
“There are a lot more of them than there are of us.”
The invitation to volunteers from Gardner, the Cincinnati Wild Flower Preservation Society Society and the DNAP spells out the specific goals at Clifton:
“We need your help to finish three areas on the Rim Trail above the gorge that volunteers from the Nature Conservancy and Columbus Audubon have gotten a fantastic start on. We will also be completing the areas that the DNAP staff and volunteers have been working on in the gorge along the scenic Little Miami River.”
The work involves about three-fourths of a mile along the trails and river.
Gardner said honeysuckle “has really altered our forest systems in Ohio, especially in the western part, the limestone glacial till area.”
“One of the obvious changes it makes is shading out our native wildflowers,” capturing sunlight that once reached them and starving them of that energy, he said.
Gardner said that the honeysuckle also robs the forest floor of the layer of leaves and decomposing material that feeds native insects and fungi and prevents trees the maintain the canopy from taking root.
The day will begin Nov. 2 with registration from 8 to 9:30 a.m., shift to honeysuckle removal from 9 a.m. to noon, take time out for lunch and camaraderie from noon to 1:30 p.m. then open up for nature hikes from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Along with Conkle’s Hollow in the Hocking Hills, the gorge “is one of the most visited preserves in the state,” Gardner said.
It accessibility from major highways and the availability of bathrooms and other facilities — a rare thing in Ohio’s natural areas and preserves — makes it logistically attractive as well.
Organizers said they need crew leaders, non-powered equipment to cut the honeysuckle; registered chain saw operators; a lunch crew; couriers to take people to their work spots; botanists and others who can identify honeysuckle; and people agile enough to work on rock and near cliff areas.
Teams of four or more who donate a minimum of $50 to cover the event’s expenses can organizations’ names on the official event T-shirt.
For details, call Christine Hadley of the wildflower group at (513) 850-9585 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.