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Vic Kastner, an employee of Fairmount Santrol in Voca, Texas, hauls shrubbery out of a woodland Tuesday at Dayton Bluffs Preserve near Ottawa. Fairmount brought more than 500 people to help clear invasive, non-native honeysuckle and buckthorn.
OTTAWA — The buckthorn and honeysuckle didn’t stand a chance Tuesday against an army of more than 500 volunteers at Dayton Bluffs Preserve on the east side of Ottawa.
The Conservation Foundation bought this 253-acre property last year and has been chipping away at restoration, which mostly means cutting and killing non-native plants in favor of native species.
On Tuesday, it had a little help from Fairmount Santrol, which has sand operations in the area and was holding a sustainability summit this week in Schaumburg. Fairmount bused attendees and equipment to Dayton Bluffs for a “Day of Caring” volunteer effort.
After getting coached on how to identify and cut buckthorn and honeysuckle, they went at it.
“We had to run up to the store to get more loppers for them to use,” said Beth Lestock, Fairmount corporate sustainability development coordinator from Chesterland, Ohio.
The army included employees and corporate partners of Fairmount, about 540 in all, with some from Mexico, Denmark and China, Lestock said.
“It’s just incredible,” said Tara Neff of The Conservation Foundation. “It’s like an Army Corps.”
The mound of invasive shrubbery grew taller and was hauled to wood chippers, also supplied by Fairmount. The work was not window dressing. It was to remove a scourge. Other professional crews joined the effort, sawing down honeysuckle and buckthorn hugging the light-rich zone along the woodland edge.
This will allow native species to grow, said Jeff Duncan, a volunteer with The Conservation Foundation.
“We pretty much try to keep the invasives out and let the natives come back on their own,” Duncan said.
The roots, seedlings and seeds of the natives are already there, waiting for opportunity, he said.
“We just need to give them more sunlight rather than force something to live there that wouldn’t normally live there,” Duncan said.
The Conservation Foundation purchased the property last year for $2 million and is leasing it to the City of Ottawa to manage as a public preserve.
Jeff Dankert can be reached at (815) 220-6977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Peru.
Want to help? The Conservation Foundation holds volunteer workdays 9 a.m.-noon the second Saturday of each month. Find out more at theconservationfoundation.org.
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