Volunteers remove ivy from city parks

Invasive plant crowds, decimates other species

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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The most attractive characteristics of English ivy are arguably what makes it such a pervasive problem.

The lush, intensely green vine is hardy and durable, and needs little, if any, care to flourish. Once it gets a foothold, it grows like mad, shrouding, and usually killing, every plant in its path like a thick fog, if left unchallenged.

Once you recognize it, you quickly realize this formidable invasive species is practically everywhere in the community — wanted or not.

But, a group of plucky, yet realistic, volunteers are spending their summer Thursday mornings in two city parks beating back the pervasive plant.

Working under the newly formed Vancouver Ivy Near Elimination (V.I.N.E.) Squad — a partnership between Clark County and the city of Vancouver — volunteers are reducing the amount of the invasive plant in Tenny Creek and LeRoy Haagen parks.

“It’s the near elimination squad, but there is a lot of hope we’re going to nearly eradicate some of those invasive species if we keep at this pace,” said Hailey K. Heath, the city’s volunteer coordinator, noting that the ivy is extremely difficult to completely remove. “It’s ambitious, but the hope is there with the support we have from volunteers and parks departments.”

Of all the many public spaces with ivy infestations, organizers chose the two parks in order to build on the restorative momentum created by volunteer groups working within them.

There are many ways to clear the stubborn plant.

In areas of thick ground cover, workers can cut out a big square and roll it up to create an “ivy log,” or they can, “dig it out, cut it out, roll it out, pull it out,” Heath said.

The V.I.N.E Squad is not the first group in the region to target the stubborn plant.

The No Ivy League in Portland has been working since 1994 to keep English ivy out of the city’s parks and natural areas, especially Forest Park.

Volunteers are given training, gloves tools and snacks to help the work go smoothly.

The program began on June 22 and runs through Aug. 24. Health said it’s something of a pilot project for the organizers, but, so far, the response has been strong. The first event attracted 8 volunteers, while one of the most recent events brought in more than 20.

“We’re pretty pleased with how it’s been progressing in our first year,” she said, adding that talks are in place to adding more V.I.N.E. Squad events in the future.

For more information, visit http://cityofvancouver.us/cmo/page/volunteer-vine-squad-1.