Painting a Portrait of Quality Restoration


Written by: Jason Prado

Our first work week in the boggy wetlands of the Indiana Dunes National Park was a bit hectic, yet we accomplished a lot. It primarily consisted of fixing beat up chainsaws, learning natives plant species, and clearing a path in the Great Marsh, which resulted in 508 foot trail for future planting. But entering Monday morning, we had little idea of what to expect for our work week. Those questions were shortly answered after we got in that morning.

After weeks of debriefing, training, and building trails, the time has finally come to PLANT! It is safe to assume our crew had been waiting to plant since we first arrived in Chesterton. I remember our first ride around the Indiana Dunes with Adam, he said restoring a degraded site is similar to painting a picture. Although you are not necessarily left with an empty canvas, your work will have an influence upon the environment that will slowly develop into your desired portrait. The plants replace the paint and the portrait reveals itself as a functioning, self-sustaining ecosystem. I know we are all looking forward to seeing our hard work develop into an exceptional piece of art.

Monday, June 11: After receiving our orders to plant for the day, we loaded the bed of the truck with dibble sticks, hand trowels, copious amounts of water, and as many native plant as we could fit, including Carex stricta, Carex pellita, Scirpus pendulus, Physostegia virginiana, Chelone glabra. (A list of the plants used and fought against this week will be included at the end of this entry.) Our crew was assigned to unit 31 of the Great Marsh, which is part of the former site of the Beverly Shores housing development. We divided our crew into teams of 2 consisting of 1 dibbler and 1 planter. We had an impressive first day with 1200 plants planted in the blistering heat. The following days were pretty similar to Monday with the exception of Thursday.

Tuesday, June 12: We began the day loading the truck in similar fashion as to the day before, but with a few new characters, including Scirpus validus, Carex aquatilus and Iris virginica. (Note: Although Scirpus validus has recently been reclassified and renamed to Schoenoplectus tabernaemonatani, the Dunes National Park has yet to recognize the change. Thus, to avoid further confusion, we will use its former name in accordance with the park.) It wasn’t as nearly as hot as the day before, which we were all thankful for but we only managed to plant a little less than 1000 plants because we called it an early day. We did implement a new planting method using a 3 person team, including someone creating planting holes, someone tossing in the plants, and a planter. It was very effective when planting populations.

Wednesday, June 13: On our third day of planting, we set out with a team of Carex stricta, Carex aquatilus, Scirpus validus, and Carex lucustra. The new and old faces allowed us to explore all areas of our unit, since they preferred different depths of water. We planted our highest total yet, 1256 plants.

Thursday, June 14: The last day of the work week brought a new objective. With the lack of native plants at the greenhouse and the reemergence of invasive populations within our unit, we strapped on backpacks filled with roughly 3-4 gallons of herbicide and spot treated an acre and a half of our unit. The packs were killer on our shoulders and backs but we are all looking forward to the spaces we cleared for planting in the upcoming week

The Good Guys:
Carex aquatilus (water sedge)
Carex lacustris (common lakeshore sedge)
Carex pellita (woolly sedge)
Carex stricta (common tussock sedge)
Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
Iris virginica (southern blue flag)
Physostegium virginiana (false dragon-head)
Scirpus validus (softstem-bulrush)

The Culprits:
Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass)
Phragmites australis (common reed)
Typha x. glauca (hybrid cattail)
Solanum dolcamara (bittersweet nightshade)