Saturday, March 3, is It’s My Park Day, a volunteer event coordinated by the nonprofit Austin Parks Foundation.
Every spring, the event draws up to 2,000 volunteers who build trails, fix play equipment, address erosion, build gardens and more. Projects are coordinated by neighborhood groups, organizations and individuals. You can search for a project online, then register to participate.
Here are the two projects that are closest to our neighborhood.
Pleasant Valley Pocket Park cleanup: This event is being led by Malcolm Yeatts of Southeast Austin Trails and Greenways (SEATAG). Meet Malcolm and help your neighbors clear brush and clean up trash in this pocket park between Burleson Road and the cul-de-sac in the Rosemont community on Pleasant Valley Road. This project can use 20 volunteers.
Fun in Blunn: Located between Oltorf Street and St. Edward’s Drive, next to Travis High School, Blunn Creek Nature Preserve is a wooded hilltop park that is overrun with invasive plants such as ligustrum, one of the top 3 most invasive plants in our area. Volunteers will help remove invasives, plant natives, build trails and pick up litter. This project can use 55 volunteers.
Learn a new skill, then bring it home
These projects are a great way to meet people and learn skills that you can then apply in your own neighborhood — in your yard or along our creek and in our parks.
Invasive plants have crowded out desirable natives in the area, and create dense growth that provides cover for homeless camps and illegal activity.
Some invasive plants are natives, but most got their start as exotic ornamental plants sold in nurseries. With no natural enemies outside their native habitat, they spread prolifically into natural areas, choking out native plants that feed and shelter wildlife, and creating shade that kills understory plants and leads to erosion.
If you want to start small, spring is a great time: You can identify invasive seedlings such as ligustrum before other plants leaf out, and the ground is soft and wet enough that you can pull them out by the roots with your hands. For safe ways to remove larger plants, you’ll want to learn from the experienced crews in a park cleanup.
To learn why Austin Parks Foundation removes invasive plants, read their Ecological Restoration website. Find out how to identify invasive plants in the Austin area with the Grow Green program’s Invasive Plants pdf.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t plant any more invasives! Many reputable nurseries refuse to sell invasive plants, but you can still find them at chain nurseries and big box stores. Instead of planting something like ligustrum, photinia or Japanese honeysuckle that will grow and spread out of control, opt for one of the many hardy, non-invasive natives that will give you the same attractive features. Wildlife and future park volunteers will thank you.