It was an exciting fall at Willow Reserve. After nearly two years of managing invasive species, we introduced an abundance of native live plantings and seed throughout the site. Shrubs were planted in key areas to provide diverse habitat and screening, and we added a variety of trees along Arundel Street where invasive Siberian Elm was previously removed. It didn’t take long for the deer to find the plantings, so we will have to keep them fenced off for now. We decreased our planned shrub/tree density in order to preserve the majority of the new sight lines into the park and maintain equipment access for future infrastructure maintenance. The cost savings from the decreased live plantings were invested in more diverse and colorful seed mixes which were spread throughout the site and will support a wide variety of wildlife (and look nice too). Finally, wetland plants were planted around the border of the pond.
This winter will be fairly quiet. Crews may spend a little time removing buckthorn that came up over the last growing season, but the critical work will begin in the spring. Crews will be staying on top of any additional invasive/undesirable plants to give our native plants and seed the best chance of establishing successfully. You may start to notice a lot of new plants and some colors at Willow Reserve by mid—summer 2019!
Willow Reserve is a 23-acre bird and wildlife reserve located along Maryland Avenue between Arundel and Virginia Streets. The reserve was established by a neighborhood group and the City of Saint Paul in the 1960s. The City of Saint Paul owns and manages the property today.
In the early 1990s, CRWD’s Trout Brook Storm Sewer Interceptor (TBI) began diverting rainwater to the reserve in an effort to reduce localized flooding. The rainwater flowing from TBI covers one-third of the upland area on site during large rainstorms. The reserve also includes 16-acres of wetlands that provide excellent habitat for birds, frogs, and other wildlife.
Willow Reserve is a critical rest stop for migratory birds following the Mississippi River Flyway. Thirty-six bird species were identified in the 2007 Natural Resource Inventory and Habitat Assessment. The diversity of bird species at the reserve is relatively high, however, plant diversity is not. Much of the site is overgrown with invasive, fast growing plants and trees. These plants are crowding out native species that provide important food and habitat for wildlife.
CRWD, the City of Saint Paul and the District 6 Planning Council met with residents on several occasions to discuss the project and gather their input to develop the Willow Reserve Restoration Plan. The goals of the plan are to remove invasive trees and plants and create more diverse plant communities to support local wildlife including birds, amphibians and insects.
Plant Management: Project construction began in the winter of 2016-2017 with the removal of invasive trees at the reserve. The trees will be chipped and used for trails, burned onsite or hauled offsite if necessary. Invasive plants will be managed during the 2017 growing season with follow-up treatment and/or removal as needed through 2019.
For large scale projects such as Willow Reserve, herbicides are the most effective and efficient way to manage unwanted vegetation. Herbicides that have been approved for use around water will be used to minimize impacts during widespread applications to cattails and reed canary grass. When possible, applicators will apply directly to tree stumps to minimize exposure to more desirable plant communities. All applicators will be licensed and will only use the amount needed for effective treatment. Signage will be posted whenever widespread treatment is underway to ensure the safety of residents.
Once the District is confident invasive species are being managed effectively, native trees, shrubs and other plants will be added to the site through a combination of live plantings and seeding. Long-term management will be required to ensure the plants are successful and the invasive species do not return.
Walking Trails: Wood chips from invasive tree management will be used to establish new walking trails. The only exception will be in cases where the trail crosses an existing wetland. The City of Saint Paul is exploring grant opportunities to build boardwalks in those areas. Please click here for a map of the proposed trails for Willow Reserve.
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