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Ford School Students Repel Invasive Species

Friday, September 1, 2006

Never let it be said that Ford School students shy away from manual labor. This past August about 40 Ford School students packed into a steamy yellow school bus bound for the Burns Park section of the Huron River to aid members of the Huron River Watershed Council. Community Service Day has become an annual bonding ritual at the Ford School—a time to meet and catch up with fellow classmates while doing some good for local public institutions. This year, armed with hacksaws, high-tension clippers, herbicide, gloves and goggles, students threw themselves into a day of dirty and sweaty but fulfilling community service work clearing invasive species from Burns Park.

Joan and Sanford Weill HallBack in the 1960s the Ann Arbor Parks Department, with the best of intentions, planted a healthy dose of autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) around some of their grounds. Almost 40 years later autumn olive has thrived in Ann Arbor and now threatens to smother much of the native flora and permanently alter the park's landscape. The fix, however, is not so easy as plucking weeds from loose earth. The only way to remove these alien plants is to chop them out. That means hacking away at the bases of small trees laced with thorny protrusions in densely knotted snarls of underbrush. More than one Ford School student shed some blood for the cause.

Invasive species clearance requires lots of person-hours to make even a small dent in the problem. Those hours are in short supply given the state of public parks budgets, which means community service volunteers have become all the more valuable and in demand. For a day, these Ford School students were happy to help restore the native ecological balance of the Huron River Watershed.

Never let it be said that Ford School students shy away from manual labor. This past August about 40 Ford School students packed into a steamy yellow school bus bound for the Burns Park section of the Huron River to aid members of the Huron River Watershed Council. Community Service Day has become an annual bonding ritual at the Ford School—a time to meet and catch up with fellow classmates while doing some good for local public institutions. This year, armed with hacksaws, high-tension clippers, herbicide, gloves and goggles, students threw themselves into a day of dirty and sweaty but fulfilling community service work clearing invasive species from Burns Park.