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"Naturalization" Begins in RI Parks

Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department

A "naturalization project" is underway in Rock Island parks. The Parks and Recreation Department has stopped mowing some areas in its parks with a long-term goal of bringing back native plants and grasses, and eliminating invasives.

Department Director, John Gripp, says first workers stop mowing some steep hillsides and other under-utilized areas. 

"Initially you identify the areas and you let the grass and weeds grow. Because the first thing we have to do is identify what is there so we can formulate a plan to remove stuff, that is invasive, and get those out of there, and add naturalized grasses that are originally in this area."

He says similar projects are already underway in Black Hawk State Park in Rock Island and in parks owned by the Rock Island County Forest Preserve.

"Last year we started at Mel McKay - we've got about a 3 acre spot out there. Again, we're not trying to disrupt anyone's recreation. So these areas that we've identified are either on hillsides, or they're just in areas not utilized that much."

This year, the program will expand to Longview, Lincoln, and Sunset parks. 

The Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department will get help from students at Augustana College - they'll help identify what's growing in the "naturalized" areas, and help explain to neighbors what the naturalization program is all about.