RotorACT battles invasive plants at the root of the problem

The newly formed RotarACT Club, based in Highlands and parented by the MountainTop Rotary Club of Highlands, organized and implemented their first project earlier this month aimed at removing invasive species of plants from nonprofit lands in and around town.

Canty Worley and crew worked in the rain to remove invasive plants from the Peggy Crosby Center in Highlands.

Another objective of this project was to provide financial assistance to those who have been impacted by COVID-19. Approx. 50 members of the community showed up on a rainy Saturday morning to pull invasive plants at four locations in Highlands and received a $100 Ingles gift card for their efforts through a grant from Rotary District 760.

“The purpose of the RotarACT Club is for young professionals to gather together and discuss ways that we can collectively address the needs that we see in our community,” said RotorACT President Rachel Kinback. “When our club met in late April it was apparent to us that one of the needs in our community may be the need to bolster our neighbors financially, even if just in a small way. Pairing this idea with another – the removal of invasive plants and the goal of keeping the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau landscape as close to its pristine native conditions as possible – seemed like a good fit.”

Karen Hawk removes privet at the Highlands Rec Park.

Workers pulled invasive plants at the Peggy Crosby Center, Highlands Biological Station, Highlands Rec Park (under the care of the Highlands Plateau Greenway); and the Zahner Preserve, a Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust site just outside of town.

Targeted invasive species include:

  • Oriental Bittersweet at all sites
  • Privet at the Peggy Crosby Center and Highlands Rec Park
  • Multiflora Rose at PCC
  • Sweet Autumn Virgin’s Bower at PCC
  • Chocolate Vine at Highlands Biological Station
  • Bishop’s Weed at HBS
  • Ground Ivy at HBS
  • English Ivy at Zahner Preserve
  • Japanese Wisteria at Zahner,
  • Japanese Pachysandra at HBS 
  • Vinca at HBS

HCLT Executive Director Gary Wein was part of the team at HBS and said if invasive plants are not properly addressed, the problem only gets worse.

“If the invasives aren’t removed they eventually smother out our native plants reducing our natural diversity,” said Wein. “Also, because the invasives aren’t native they don’t actually provide food for our native animals. If you walk along the forest boundary near the pavilion at the Rec Park you can see what we did last year and see the difference. It’s quite remarkable.”

Workers got down into the thick of it to remove invasive plants from the Highlands Rec Park.

Wein added that the rain made everything sloppy, slippery, and soaked; which wasn’t a problem until you stopped moving and started to get cold. However, standing still wasn’t a problem as most of the plants were removed with loppers, saws, and hand clippers.

“It was a great event, pulling volunteers together for a great cause that benefited all the members of the Highlands community,” said Wein. “The RotarACT gang is to be commended for pulling off the event, even with the bad weather. They were very organized and quickly adjusted to the bad weather.”

Its a bad day to be an invasive plant on the Plateau. Pictured above is Highlands Biological Foundation Project Coordinator Sonya Carpenter firing up the chainsaw for some particularly difficult privet at the Highlands Rec Park.

MountainTop Rotarian Dr. John Baumrucker said he showed up for two reasons, because removing invasive plants on the Plateau is an important project and to support RotorACT in its infancy.

“Despite the rain, we were able to work well without heat and sweat,” said Baumrucker. “The plant professionals will follow up in a few weeks to eliminate the rest of the invasive material. I think we did very well.”

Crews kept at it well into the afternoon and Kinback said a major highlight of the day was a delicious Mexican box-lunch prepared by the International Friendship Center’s Women’s Initiative, delivered to crews by MountainTop Rotarians.

Kellan Day making repeated trips to a trailer with armloads of privet at the Highlands Rec Park.

“We consider this our own mini Highlands-centric stimulus package,” said Kinback. “Our Clubs feel very good about cycling these funds through to those who were willing to show up and put in the effort, despite the rain. It also felt great to come together and tend to our shared landscape, working toward a common goal.”

Rotaract Club and the Rotary Club of Highlands-MountainTop are accepting membership applications from people in Highlands who wish to serve their community and do good in the world. For more information call 828.200.0902. 

Pictured at the top of the article RotorACT President Rachel Kinback getting down and dirty pulling invasive plants at the Highlands Biological Station.

Crew working at the Peggy Crosby Center. Photo courtesy of RotorACT.

Crew working at the Highlands Biological Station. Photo courtesy of RotorACT.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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