COLUMBIA — Members of the Park Hill Neighborhood Improvement Association gathered Saturday at Stewart Park for their annual spring cleanup.
Stewart Park, which begins where East and West Parkway meet at Broadway, is privately owned by members of the association who pay yearly dues to maintain the area. Members of the association removed honeysuckle bushes and vines, dead limbs, weeds and the occasional piece of trash from the park.
“It’s important to keep it up so that people can enjoy it and it will be there for our kids and for a long time to come,” said Ellen McQuie, a West Parkway resident. Residents work to carry out the conservation guidelines created in 2002.
Cathy Gunther, former president of the association said the plan “basically involves removing invasive plants, dealing with erosion issues, and trying to interact with the city as far as using the creek as a watershed for the city, but also to keep it as natural and as pristine as we can in a suburban situation,”
One of the invasive plant species focused on at the cleanup was honeysuckle bushes and vines. In yards, honeysuckle can easily be maintained, but according to Gunther, honeysuckle has overrun portions of the park, making it difficult for native plants to survive. Honeysuckle also causes problems for birds who like to nest in the low bushes, making them an easy target for cats. Honeysuckle removal was made easier this year with the Honeysuckle Popper garden tool, which provides leverage and helps to loosen the shallow roots of the plant.
With the only infrastructure being a small bridge running over the creek, residents enjoy the natural state of the park.
“It’s an amazing resource for people who love nature. It provides a nice buffer from downtown,” Gunther said. “It’s like having a natural space in the middle of a city, which is unusual.”