Volume 7, Issue 2
In this Issue:
Retirement Road for a long time Public Works employee, Buckthorn Management, Re-Use of Natural Resources, and Watercraft Rentals
Re-Use of Natural Resources
by: Tim Buri
If you have been out to Oxbow Park lately you may have noticed the road realignment for county road 105 has begun. One of the park's first tasks was to clear the trees for the new road. Among the trees cleared we found oak, maple, and cherry. With the upcoming construction of the new nature center, the decision was made to utilize these resources. The logs were hauled to a local sawmill where they were milled into live edge four-inch planks. These planks will be used to build benches for indoor and outdoor use around the nature center. Other logs were also milled into live edge two-inch planks for use on the main desk in our greeting area. As a part of our décor of learning, tree planks were also milled that will go on the walls of the nature center to teach about forest life. At the present time, this wood is being dried by dehumidifiers, and these projects will begin this winter when the drying is complete.
Photos: Left to Right: 2-inch live edge for the reception desktop, oak being cut into benches, 4-inch oak for benches
FOX Update: New Nature Center
by: Kristina Haeussinger
It’s been a long year of pausing beloved Oxbow Park events for Friends of Oxbow. We have been using this time to gear up for a capital fundraising campaign for the new nature center. The official groundbreaking ceremony in May will kick off our campaign to raise funds for displays, interactive learning features, and so much more inside the new nature center. We are hopeful that we will be able to plan some great events later this year to celebrate! Please keep an eye on our website or social media accounts for updates.
Retirement: Lori Collins
by: Josh Drilling
Retirement is not the end of the road; it is the beginning of the open highway. Please help say a well-deserved thank you to Lori Collins in Public Works and Environmental Resources for her years of service and dedication.
Lori has recently given our department divisions her plans for her upcoming retirement date. Lori’s career as a Clerical Specialist 2 with Olmsted County started on November 26, 2007. Since then, 14 years later, she has been a huge part of supporting all Public Works and Environmental Resources needs. Along with three co-workers, Lori’s main support leaned towards the Parks, Engineering, Surveying, and Highway divisions. She was transferred to the “New” Public Works Service Center after construction was completed and many staff relocated to their new work areas. Lori’s love for Parks allowed her the opportunity to support Parks in many ways over the years. Lori’s behind the scenes support for Parks is easily identified with her professional and experienced clerical role at monthly Parks Board meetings, continued support for all Parks brochures, updating Parks website and Facebook, promoting Parks activities, directing phones calls, assisting with camping reservations, and press releases to name a few. Many times, she used her knowledge and witty personality to win over the hundreds of phone calls daily that she buffers and directs throughout the county. She is quick to be helpful and gives her assistance where needed to anyone looking for help, especially the Parks crew. When asked, what she thought her biggest accomplishment and or what her proudest work project has been, she easily said “The DAV Hunt.” She helped plan and start the first event while working directly with Parks and the Veterans Service Office in providing Disabled American Veterans the opportunity to deer hunt at Chester Woods Park. As a veteran herself, Lori has given her time on and off work time to support and see that every year this event is a success. She has enjoyed watching this event grow and become rewarding for all involved and the success that it has brought to Disabled Veterans all over.
Lori’s years of achievements and dedication warrant her the retirement life of traveling, camping, spending time with her three granddaughters, and enjoying her recently remodeled kitchen. We will see Lori after retirement, as she has plans to volunteer at the Parks. Lori’s advice to new employees is to start planning for retirement right away and to enjoy your job every day. Lori’s retirement date is August 6, following her husband Byron’s retirement in July from Viracon in Owatonna, MN. We wish you the best LC, thanks for your dedication to Parks!
by Ernie Freudenburg
It is no secret that invasive buckthorn has impacted our county parks and taken a toll on the resource management plan for Olmsted County Parks staff. Buckthorn is just one example of an invasive species that we attempt to manage and control. But first, a short summary of just how difficult it is to get rid of buckthorn. This information was extracted from a video produced by the UM Extension called, “Tangled Ecosystem.”
Buckthorn and agriculture have several connections. One connection is the Soybean Aphid. These aphids suck the nutrients from the soybean plant which affects the yield. Only female aphids are on the plants. They give birth to pregnant babies. This is called “telescoping generations.” However, there are other insects like the non-native Asian beetle which feed on these aphids. These beetles are the pests that invade our homes in the fall.
In the fall the soybean aphids move to the nearby forest areas. They use the buckthorn as a place for mating and it is the egg stage that survives over winter. Sadly, the buckthorn plant is not impacted.
Another agricultural connection is Oat Crown Rust. This fungi attacks oats and barley reducing crop yields by as much as 40%. It also likes buckthorn, and unfortunately, the buckthorn doesn’t care. No damage is done.
Now for some history. In the mid -1800s people brought buckthorn to North America for ornamental purposes because it stays green longer than any other forest plants in our Minnesota climate. In the soil of those potted plants were earthworms which are not native to North America. Earthworms like to eat the litter on the floor of the forest and turn it into soil. This disrupts the ecosystem balance between living plants and decomposing plant material, causing the loss of many of our beautiful spring flowers and producing a soil that is bare and perfect for buckthorn seed germination.
And the story continues. During the time of Shakespeare, the European Starling was also imported into North America. These and other birds spread the buckthorn seeds quickly because the fruit is not nutritious. It affects these birds as a laxative. These seeds rush through their digestive systems onto the bare soil that has been prepared by the invasive earthworms.
Minnesota is the epicenter of buckthorn infestation. Buckthorn outcompetes other forest plants for soil nutrients, sunlight, and moisture. Every Minnesota county is dealing with this problem. This is what we, who live near and love our parks, are up against. FOCW has committed $6000 in annual resources over the next 5 years to help manage and mitigate buckthorn and other woody invasive vegetation through resource management practices. We will partner with the county and Chester Woods staff to keep the parts of the park that have minimal buckthorn as pristine as possible. Secondly, we will identify just how to enlarge these areas through removal by various means. There are a variety of tools to do that, but no one method can do it all.
Below is a list of tools that are available to use
➔ Pulling small buckthorn out with the roots. However, this leaves exposed soil ready for more seeds.
➔ Using a forestry mower to initially clear an area of buckthorn.
➔ Chemical treatment after cutting on the outer cambium layer of bark.
➔ Using goats to eat buckthorn bark
➔ Running a controlled fire through the forest
➔ Removing the female seed-producing buckthorn.
➔ Most important are our volunteers. We are blessed to have a dedicated core group, but we can always use more!
All of these methods need to be monitored on an annual basis. Our hope is that we control the areas that are almost buckthorn-free and expand those areas with the help of volunteers and contracting with forestry management businesses.
Over the past three years, Weed Warriors (a group of park volunteers) have removed honeysuckle and female buckthorn along the trail system by using loppers, hand saws, and battery-operated reciprocating saws then treating stumps with herbicide.
The cleared areas need to be planted with wildflowers and graminoids (grasses, sedges, and rushes) in intervals along the trail. Deer resistant species such as Columbines, Jacob’s Ladders, Hairy Beardtongue, Late Figwort, and Violet Wood Sorrel, and Zig Zag goldenrod will be sown to attract pollinators.
This 2021 restoration project will greatly enhance the area by removing dense stands of buckthorn so park users can see the forest and lake in a more natural state. We will identify these new wildflowers with signs stating the common name, scientific name, and a QR code that takes the user to the Minnesota Wildlife website for more information. Native wildflowers and graminoids will provide high-quality nectar and pollen for insects and birds as well as developing seeds so the plants will naturally spread into the forest.
Top photo: This picture shows buckthorn on the Dam Overlook Trail. Volunteers are cutting and treating it with a herbicide.
Bottom photo: This picture shows the work volunteers have done in this area to make it more like a native SE MN forest.
Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff Reed
by: Lonnie Hebl
I would like to introduce you to Jeff Reed. He started working at Oxbow Park, as a member of the Experience Works Program in 2016, after retiring from IBM-Rochester in 2014. Jeff handled all the things we asked him to do with ease, but I could always tell that he was a man in constant motion and office tasks weren’t going to hold his attention for long. In 2019 he expressed an interest in volunteering at the Park. I was happy to help. Having an easy-going, energetic and positive person ask to volunteer is better than winning the lottery. Jeff is a go-to guy for me. He handles mowing the grass, safety checks at Lake Zumbro, picking up fish at area hatcheries, collecting Maple sap, and turning it into Maple syrup (as shown in the photo), and still helps me with some of the same tasks that he was paid for while employed by Experience Works.
Anyone that works with volunteers will tell you, the strongest quality of a good volunteer is the ability and willingness to jump in and help when the need is greatest. That is exactly what Jeff does best! From making an emergency animal pick-up to grooming ski trails after each snowfall. He is always ready to help wherever he is needed.
On behalf of all the Oxbow Staff and myself, Thanks for all you do for us! I appreciate it!
Chester Woods Park has 1330 acres of county parkland. It boasts roughly 15 miles of hiking trails, seven picnic shelters, one of Southeastern Minnesota’s favorite campgrounds (not that I’m biased), and Bear Creek Reservoir which is roughly 112 acres in size.
The reservoir is by far, one of the main draws to the park for numerous reasons. The fishing is fantastic with beautiful crappies, sunfish, bass, channel catfish, and you may even find a northern (which was not originally stocked in the lake). There is also a beach that tends to be very popular during the summer months for the families around the area, as well as the campers. We do have a boat launch at the park as well but do not allow any gasoline motors. The only boats that are allowed on the lake are electric trolling motors or paddle type. Bear Creek Reservoir is one of the nicest canoeing and kayaking lakes in the area, so we get a lot of paddling traffic.
The park offers watercraft rentals during the summer months (Memorial Day – Labor Day). This amenity is by far one of the most popular that the park offers. The selection of watercraft includes canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and stand-up paddleboards. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic (and sanitization issues) last summer the park was unable to rent watercraft. This was a huge disappointment to many parkgoers, but most understood.
This summer we will be offering our rentals, but there will be several changes. The first and most important change to note for our park patrons is the fact that they will be asked to provide their own PDF (life jackets). This is due to the sanitization process required between usage. The second change will be the location of the rentals. The watercraft rentals will be available at the beach house, and not at the entrance gate. All the rental craft have also been moved to the new storage area which is located right next to the beach. The park has constructed an ADA path that leads to the water's edge and a new dock with kayak launch has been installed.
We are looking forward to being able to offer this amenity to the public again and hope that you all can come and enjoy the fresh air and openness of your Olmsted County Parks this summer!