Thoughts on removing invasive plants at parks?

I’ve been noticing lots of wintercreeper, burning bush, multiflora rose, privet, garlic mustard, and oriental bittersweet at a local park this winter, and was wondering if you all think I should remove it or not, since it’s at a park where it’s technically illegal to do so. I contacted the park a few days ago but haven’t heard anything back yet. Does it damage the soil to yank out wintercreeper vines, or is it ok? I found a few wintercreepers that were about a quarter of the way up a tree, and the vine wasn’t too thick so I cut it at the base since that’s not damaging anything other than the wintercreeper. Multiflora rose might be a bit difficult to remove casually on hikes, but burning bush, wintercreeper, and privet can come up pretty easily. Thanks for the thoughts!


I’d say go for it. I certainly do this sometimes.

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I would strongly suggest not doing this without permission. If you’re interested, get in touch with whoever manages the park, and you can likely set something up. There’s been some good discussion of this previously on the forum, example:
Though I am sure that there are other threads worth reading as well.


Would it be possible to get official permission to do this, or to form a friends of the park organization and to get permission for the group to perform this work? The agency that is in charge of the park might then be willing to make tools available for the removal of the difficult invasives, such as the Rosa multiflora, especially if they view it as an opportunity for you to make their job easier.


I would do it. The rules may be against it, but if you know your plants you are doing far more good than harm removing these ecologically.


As a parks worker, please get permission to do so. Often times, town and state parks especially are thrilled to get volunteers willing to do invasives removals.


But also sometimes they don’t want you to do it for dumb reasons. Better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. You’re doing much more good than harm, if you know what you’re doing.


Sometimes the reasons are dumb. Sometimes the reasons are good ones. Whatever you end up doing, if you decide to ‘beg forgiveness’ check what the local rules/laws are. Some places its a hefty fine, which is again, for sure your choice, but know what you’re getting into.


Thankss for the links! I’ll have to read those too.

I contacted the park a few days ago but haven’t heard back yet, so we’ll see. I know how to identify invasives, but I could see why a park wouldn’t want just anyone going in and ripping things out in case they don’t know what’s good and what’s not.

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I contacted them a few days ago, still awaiting a response.

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That’s kind of my thinking too.

I agree with the sentiment to talk to the land managers. Likely they will be thrilled to get an active volunteer to help with non-native plant removal, but if you go out on your own that could cause unnecessary confusion for the land managers.


If you feel you must go the controversial route of removing without asking, know the plant, really know the plant. Know best practices for that plant. Know best removal practices in general, like careful consideration for seeds, if present, not leaving soil freshly loosened from pulling that would encourage new invasive growth, erosion potential and other things in the links above from cthawley. A small seedling might be simple, but many plants will quickly reach a point where they can regrow from roots or rhizomes and may need follow ups to prevent a single action from exasperating a situation. Even wet or dry soil can be the difference between a pull completely removing the plant and remnants being left behind so that in a year there’s multiple plants the size of the first. Never use herbicides without permission, regardless of efficacy, it is very important to many and absolutely not for the “ask forgiveness” route. It’s a challenge for me, but as the others have emphasized, communication is best, though, land owners and managers may not be aware, but may like to be and want to monitor the situation. That may be essential for long-term management.


I wonder if your park hosts any invasive plant removal events like mine; might be better to participate then, as it’s supervised and they tend to walk you through the procedures. I wonder this question myself when looking at phragmites; I used to see lots of downy woodpeckers chipping away at the stalks for bugs and feel weird about removing a possible food source.


Many parks in the US have groups “Friends of such and so park” that host clean ups. If your park doesn’t, look into starting one. Many parks “host” walking clubs or biking clubs, so those folks are usually willing to volunteer. Keep asking and being a squeaky wheel!
Also talk to the County Extension office.


@ohiobotanist – I’m about to give some advice that I would find almost impossible to take, unsocial person that I am, but I’ve seen it work.

Probably the park administration is failing to respond because they have no idea what to do about your request (no procedure is in place), because they don’t know you, and/or because somebody in administration is imagining worse-case scenarios. (You get tangled up in blackberries and die, and the relatives sue? Ivy you’re pulling off a tree falls and kills somebody? You poison the whole park with herbicides? You sexually assault a child in the park and it’s considered the park administration’s fault? I’m not saying the scenarios are realistic.) Or, they just haven’t had time. Whoever you contacted probably has to ask somebody else who has to check the rules with somebody else . . . .

So, go talk to somebody. Going into the office is probably best. Maybe befriend somebody doing the work in the park. Maybe talk to somebody that a mutual friend or acquaintance can introduce you to. If possible, be able to refer to somebody the park people should respect – a teacher, a plant or garden club, a respected business person, etc. – to give you more credibility. Make limited proposals until they get to know you – remove specific species or work in a limited area. Parks people are usually overwhelmed and glad to have help, but they may have issues that can be overcome by knowing you.


This is a great point, and there are good examples of parks doing this with iNat. This example:
was just in the iNat Feb News Update:

Getting a park interested in doing invasive/weed removal would be much more impactful than removing a few invasives here and there (which will honestly have negligible impact).


Any word? Honestly, I would ask because I wouldn’t want the chaos that might result if I didn’t ask and someone caught me doing it. No one needs stress and unhappiness.

Lots to choose from in the UK but generally I don’t usually bother unless it’s Himalayan Balsam because that you can pull out by hand that then rots down easily - it’s roots are so shallow it barely disturbs the soil to get rid of it. Pull up, chuck on a hard surface (compacted path or even just hang over a tree branch) and it’s done. There’s little it can be reasonably confused with, it doesn’t need tools, it doesn’t need any fancy disposal.

Whereas something else would need digging up, soil disturbance, proper disposal and all. That’s a lot of steps for some halfwit like me to screw up and could potentially make it worse - the risk of damaging something else, disturbing the soil, leaving a bit of root, misapplying herbicide, and so on.

There’s a reason they made ‘balsam bashing’ into little community events, but not knotweed-gnawing. One of them needs a professional who knows what they’re doing, the other less so.