Volunteers go to war against Rock Creek Park invader

Alex Saunders, left, cuts English Ivy off of the Melvin Hazen Trail in Rock Creek Park. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

WASHINGTON – Some D.C. residents have volunteered in the war against a foreign invader that threatens the trees in Rock Creek Park.

The invader is called English ivy, and it is weighing down hundreds of trees in the 2,000 acre park.

“It is in almost every part of the park, particularly around the boundaries of the park,” says Alex Saunders from the Rock Creek Park Conservancy.

He says it makes the trees much more vulnerable to being blown down during strong wind and rain storms, and during heavy snow falls.

The National Park Service says trees covered in ivy can be a hazards near roads, walkways, and homes. On the ground, the ivy can crowd out other native species.

Saunders spent a warm Sunday afternoon teaching 18 volunteers how to snip the Ivy in two places, about waist high and near the bottom, to kill it and protect the trees in an area just off Connecticut Avenue near Rodman Street called the Melvin Hazen Trail.

The ivy tends to grow more on hilly areas, often near apartments, houses and power lines that surround the park, rather than in the well-used areas more frequented by people.

The conservancy hopes to rid the park of the invasive species within 2 years by killing it one tree at a time.

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