Volunteers battle blackberries (and other invasive plants)

By Michael Lancaster – The Charter News

If it weren’t for the perennial efforts of the National Honor Society (NHS) and other volunteers, the ACA woods would be even more of an impenetrable tangle of invasive plants.

This year’s installment of Battle of the Blackberries was waged over the course of two consecutive mornings, Feb. 24-25. About 15 volunteers collectively put in about 50-60 hours of effort to help restore the forest ecosystem to its native balance, according to Mr. Chad Wynne, the staff NHS organizer.

“This is something we do in Oregon, right?” Mr. Wynne rhetorically asked Saturday, before cutting into a pile of branches with his electric chain saw. “I mean, we have this big, open, natural area. We should do something.”

This year’s volunteers included ACA parents, staff, and students, ranging in age from kindergarten to 11th grade. Together, they dug, tore, cut, snipped, pulled, and otherwise removed plant species whose common names give a hint to their historic point of origin: Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, English holly, English laurel, and Scotch broom.

The efforts help restore native plants to the forest. Conservation organizations advocate for removal of non-native, invasive plants and restoration of native habitats because native plants provide greater benefits to the living and nonliving environment.

“Restoring native plant habitat is vital to preserving biodiversity,” according to the Audubon Society’s website. “By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.”

The website of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, says that native plants “ensure habitat for plants and the animals that depend on them.”

The annual event is organized by NHS students to help the environment, and it provides symbiotic benefits; it’s another way ACA families may earn their quota of service hours. NHS students are required to perform an additional 30 hours of service yearly to uphold their commitment to the academic- and service-oriented organization, Wynne said.

JJ Pen, an ACA junior in his first year of NHS, earned some of his service hours by blackberries_Michael_1084organizing this year’s event and personally digging out and piling up plants on both days. He brought his mom and sister. He led by example, and he made his rounds from work party to work party, explaining the project and answering questions.

“I love trying to organize things, doing yard work, being out in nature,” Pen said while dragging a holly plant to the pile.

Pen and Wynne said turnout was lower than expected, but that they were thankful to those who turned out and pleased with the progress.

“We got a lot of work done,” Pen said, pointing out the blackberry-less border along the fence near Front Avenue.

Mr. Wynne said he accomplished his personal goal of getting the pile of branches and detritus from last year’s event cleaned up from the playground area. He quickly got positive feedback for that from other staff, Wynne later said.

Scott Clark brought his two sons on Saturday. Third-grader Owen and kindergartener Milo love outdoor work and enjoy giving back to the community, their dad said. Earning volunteer hours was a bonus.

“They jumped in the car” to come, Scott Clark said.

Milo added, “I like to help the community.”


The Audubon Society, http://www.audubon.org/content/why-native-plants-matter, accessed March 6, 2017.

The Native Plant Society of Oregon, http://www.npsoregon.org/landscaping4.html, accessed, March 6, 2017.

Clark, Milo, Personal Interview, Feb. 25, 2017.

Clark, Owen, Personal Interview, Feb. 25, 2017.

Clark, Scott, Personal Interview, Feb. 25, 2017.

Pen, JJ, Personal Interview, Feb. 25, 2017.

Wynne, Chad, Personal Interview, Feb. 25, 2017.

Photos by Michael Lancaster