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Brown County State Park Stiltgrass Control Project

 

In September 2012, the Brown County Native Woodlands Project (BCNWP) completed the third year of control efforts on the stilt grass infestation in Brown County State Park.  The project was initiated in 2010 and funded by the BCNWP when members of the board, who were also mountain bikers, noticed that some of the trails passed through areas containing significant amounts of stiltgrass. The newest section of trail (Pine Loop), which was added in 2009, was built though an area already extensively infested. Concern about this situation led to the proposal that the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) become involved by supplying volunteer effort. As a member of HMBA, Len Logterman volunteered to lead the effort.  Following is a recap of this 3-year effort and observations about the project.

 

In 2016, the BCNWP completed the sixth year of control efforts on the stilt grass infestation in Brown County State Park. The effort to control invasive on park property has expanded to include multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, autumn olive and privet.  The following is a recap, by year, of the effort and some observations as a result of the effort.

 

The project was initially a joint effort of the following organizations:

 

 

2010 - Year 1

 

The effort began late in the season, limiting the extent of the effort. About 200 gallons of herbicide was applied along the bike path corridor and to infested fire roads and drainage paths which crossed the trails. Approximately a dozen volunteers were trained and participated at one time or another. Most of the bike trail corridor was treated with the exception of the Schooner expert trail.

 

2011 - Year 2

 

The effort began in early July and continued through August until we began to see the grass going to seed. A total of 526 gallons of herbicide was applied with 149 hours of volunteer effort. Herbicide was applied to the same areas covered in 2010, since some residual seed was present, but the field of treatment was extended considerably by following the traces of stilt grass up the many streams and gullies to the source. This included some application on the roadsides of the West Gate and Ogle roads by Habitat Solutions using an ATV mounted sprayer. The 2011 effort was funded by a $1000 donation from HMBA to BCNWP and the partnership was joined by the Friends of Brown County State Park organization which donated an ATV mounted sprayer to the BCSP maintenance crew so they could support the roadside spraying effort. TNC also donated herbicide for the maintenance crew to use.

 

2012 - Year 3

 

This year’s effort will once again repeat treatment to the same areas covered previously for an endeavor of “complete” eradication. BCNWP will make $1500 available for herbicide. Greater focus will be applied to the infestations on the roadsides, since these areas are at the highest elevations and appear to be the primary source of waterborne distribution of the grass. We have asked the park management to suspend mowing of roadsides during July and use the manpower to support the roadside spraying effort instead. BCNWP will support this effort by identifying and flagging areas to be sprayed. Spraying will also be extended to the trails used by the horse barn/trail ride concession, since drainage from those trails affects the same areas as the mountain bike trails. It might be possible to include some effort on hiking trails if volunteers are available from hiking advocacy groups.

 

Observations and Conclusions:

  • The primary source of stilt grass seed is from the roadsides. Initial introduction of stilt grass into the park is probably from vehicles or equipment used for road and horse trail maintenance, mowing equipment, utility ROW maintenance and pipeline construction. 

  • Seed is spread downhill by water runoff and eventually ends up in all stream beds which drain from BCSP. 

  • Seed is spread along roadsides and into other grassy areas primarily by mowing operations. 

  • Spraying stilt grass infestations on the roadsides for the next few years could be the most important control method. Poast (grass-specific) herbicide should be used. 

  • Avoidance of mowing of existing infestations after the grass has gone to seed will reduce the spread. 

  • Washing of mowing decks in the spring could mitigate the spread. I have observed stilt grass growing around signposts which have been cleared by a weed-whip device when nearby roadside areas are clean, indicating that even the weed-whips can be a seed spreading mechanism 

  • Trail users (bikers, horses, hikers, runners) can spread seed along the trail, but observations of mountain bike trail sections leading away from heavy infestations on Pine Loop and Walnut show no spread beyond about 100 ft. These trails are relatively new, and if had been left untreated, that would have obviously extend the spread. 

  • Trail construction equipment or any mechanical equipment which traverses the trails have the potential to introduce or re-introduce seed onto trails if not properly cleaned.

 

The 3-year stiltgrass control project in Brown County State Park came to a close in September 2012.  Following are highlights from this year's effort:

 

  • 574 gallons of herbicide used (526 gallons in 2011)

  • 184 hours of volunteer effort (149 volunteer hours in 2011)

  • The drought had a significant impact.  Some of the areas treated in 2011 were not re-treated this year because the grass was too dry in June and July.  The stiltgrass may have recovered significantly following the rain received in August.  These areas will be revisited next year & treated as necessary.

  • The treatment area was expanded considerably this year by tackling the horse trails which service the saddle barn.  Over 200 gallons of herbicide were sprayed on about 5 miles of trail and the nearby valleys and creek beds.

  • Repeated touch-ups were done on the West Gate and Ogle roadsides which were sprayed last year.  It is difficult to find any stiltgrass along those roadsides as a result.  Hopefully, there will not be a lot of re-appearance next year.

  • The park maintenance personnel sprayed a lot of the roadsides throughout the park and also helped with one segment of the horse trail.

  • The clearing of fire roads by the DNR in August made it much easier to access many portions of the bike trails and the creeks which cross them.  Early plans to use ATVs to deploy herbicide proved unnecessary as these areas can now be easily accessed by 4WD truck.   Some exceptions, such as the Green Valley trail still must be supplied
    by bike/trailer.

  • Very little stilt grass can be observed from any of the mountain bike trails, but follow-up will be required for another year or two.

  • This year, more glyphosate was used than Poast.  This project has become a more general invasives control project with time and herbicide being directed to controlling multi-flora rose, Japanese Barberry, vinca, and autumn olive.  The spraying of these other invasives, however, has been mostly limited to areas nearby to areas being treated for stilt grass. 

  • While the season has closed on stilt grass and multiflora, there is still opportunity to attack vinca, Japanese Barberry, and autumn olive.  If you are interested in volunteering to help with this project please email bcnwpinc@gmail.com.

 

2013 - Year 4

 

This year, we set new records for volume of herbicide (734 gallons) and person-hours (218), thanks to help from the 3 TNC interns. Brandy Nethery, Adam Grinstead, and Adam Pipi participated at various times from June 20 through August 13. 

 

We focused on multi-flora rose (MFR) much more in June and July and then on more on stilt grass through August. It doesn't take long to pump out 3 or 4 gallons of herbicide when all you can see around you is MFR. Most of our MFR effort went into 2 areas, Pine Loop Trail and the Saddle Barn horse trails. Both areas are what some bikers have called "opened-up". I usually describe it as somewhat resembling a war-zone. You can definitely see farther into the woods now. 

 

Roadside stilt grass was sprayed again this year from ATVs by the Park maintenance crew and by the TNC interns. Some good news is that there are several areas on the mountain bike trails at higher elevations where stilt grass was present in previous years and has not re-appeared this year. On the other hand, in very wet areas, the stilt grass was much thicker and healthier than last year. I think this is mostly due to the difference in moisture between last year's severe drought and this year's wet summer.

 

2014 - Year 5

 

We didn't surpass last year's record of 734 gallons of herbicide, but managed to apply a total of 594 gallons with 211 person-hours of effort. 

Overall, I view the effort as very successful. For stilt grass, we concentrated more on the upper elevations, roadsides, areas adjacent to the roadsides, and road drainages. During May and June, before the stilt grass season started, we focused mostly on multi-flora rose, Japanese barberry, and autumn olive. Most of this early effort was in the Pine Loop area, along the saddle barn horse trails, and the meadow near the upper shelter. 

 

 One major difference this year compared to the previous 4 years is that we did the first treatment of several newly discovered large patches of stilt grass. Most of the previous year's treatment of stilt grass have been repeated treatments of the same areas with each year finding fewer and fewer plants. Some of the mountain bike trail sections treated previously appear to be clean now. The new patches are only "newly discovered" and have probably been there for many years. At least one section is over the path where a water line was installed some years back and the stilt grass was probably introduced by the equipment used for the line construction. Other new treatment areas include the 10 O'clock Treaty Line trail from Taylor Ridge into Yellowwood and another fire road off of the West Gate Road into Yellowwood. I suppose that these roads were first infected by mowing equipment. 

 

Other than roadsides, our effort has been almost entirely in the northern park of the park where mountain bike trails have been constructed. We know that, in the sourthern part, the public horse trails and areas that drain from them are major stilt grass infestations. Much of this could come under a beginning measure of control simply by spraying the stilt grass that is clearly visible from an ATV, and doing this for 2 or 3 successive years. We have not treated any of the hiking trails and haven't inspected any of these areas, but there have reports that there is stilt grass along some of the hiking trails.

 

2015 - Year 6

 

The invasives control project was wrapped up on August 28 this year due to a large amount of stilt grass going to seed. We used 510 gallons of herbicide and spent 200 person-hours doing it. In the past couple of years I have reported that we eliminated stilt grass in some areas. Some of those areas came back this year. Overall, we have had more stilt grass appear this year than any year since we started in 2010. This is true even for areas where we have prevented it from going to seed for 5 years in a row. 

 

As usual, we beat back many of the multiflora rose and Japanese barberry bushes and a few autumn olive and privet. One of our goals this year was that you should be able to drive from the North Gate to park headquarters without seeing a multi-flora rose, Japanese Barberry or autumn olive within 20 ft of the roadway. I am afraid we didn't quite achieve that goal unless you don't recognize autumn olive when you see it. We also focused more on roadsides this year than ever before, so if you see a big brown patch of dead grass along the road, you know who to blame. 

 

As usual, we expanded our range again this year and sprayed some of the fire roads in Yellowwood State Forest that connect with fire roads in BCSP. They are easy targets, because they are covered by dense stands of stilt grass and you don't have to focus on anything except pumping the handle on your backpack sprayer or waving the wand when using a motorized sprayer mounted in the back of a gator. 

 

It has also been a frustrating year because of our inability to cover all the ground that we have in the past, particularly some of the mountain bike trails and watershedsthat adjoin or cross the mountain bike trails. On the other hand, the saddle barn horse trails got pretty complete treatment once again.