Reviving the River Bank in Morad Park; Crews Remove Invasive Russian Olive Trees
The origin of the first Russian olive tree brought to Wyoming has been lost to history, but its frustrating legacy has not.
"Many years ago, we thought that they would make good wind breaks and survive really well in Wyoming," said Jolene Martinez, the City of Casper's special projects manager.
"Well, they not only survived, they thrived and became invasive," Martinez said. "And they are choking out a lot of our native species, trees and plants, and a lot of the native birds don't like them."
So for the next few weeks in Morad Park, bikers, hikers and dog-walkers will need to watch their steps as crews with the Platte River Revival fell or tear out about 600 of the pretty, albeit pesky trees along the riparian areas, or river banks.
"This is the first phase of our revitalization project for Morad Park," Martinez said. "We're trying to make the river self-sustaining, which it is not now."
Crews use two methods to eradicate the Russian Olives, she said.
The cleanest kill occurs by pulling them out by their roots with a skid-steer loader, leaving a small hole that fills in over time, Martinez said.
Sometimes, however, pulling them out will damage nearby plants, so they are cut down and immediately sprayed with an herbicide, she said.
Monday, Martinez and Kaitlyn Hillhouse marveled at a standing cottonwood tree that had a Russian olive grow through it. The Russian olive not only had been cut, it received a saw cut for the application of the herbicide.
Hillhouse works for the Natrona County Weed and Pest District, which has identified Russian olives among the many invasive species that have caused havoc with native plants and animals.
After the trees are gone, Martinez said crews will begin in-river construction with the installation of rock to channel the water and flush sedimentation. Revegetation of the banks will begin later this fall or next spring,
The district is among the 27 sponsors of the Platte River Revival including other government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations, Martinez said. The city of Casper coordinates the projects.
Over the past eight years, it has removed the Russian olives at the Tate picnic area along on the Platte River Parkway Trust land north of the First Street bridge, Crossroads Park, behind the soccer fields, by Bryan Stock Trail, the former Amoco refinery property now know as the Platte River Commons, Poplar to 13th Street, and the Tate Pump House.
The tree removal has borne fruit, sometimes literally, along the North Platte River.
"For the eight years that we've been doing this, everywhere we've removed the Russian olives, and we let it sit for about two years and see what happens," Martinez said.
"We're finding a larger diversity of birds coming back, and we're finding wonderful plant communities that the seed that has been dormant in the ground comes back to life," she said. "And it's pretty amazing to watch us revitalize the riparian area through the city of Casper."