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Volunteers, students help clear invasive species at headwaters

(Daniel J. Murphy – dmurphy@shawmedia.com)
Alfredo Padilla of San Cristóbal, Venezuela, joined the effort Saturday to clear invasive species along the headwaters of the Kishwaukee River in Woodstock.

Using oversized weed cutters to get rid of invasive species along the Kishwaukee River headwaters Saturday morning was familiar work for a group of Woodstock High School students.

The four girls joined volunteers on national Make a Difference Day to clear away invasive species from the site at Route 14 and Dean Street, as well as cleaning up trash to improve the natural habitat for native plants and animals.

“I’m used to picking invasive species,” said senior Emily Bradley, who has participated in similar volunteer efforts. “It’s really just picking out Queen Anne’s Lace and buckthorn [plants.]”

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County organized the day’s effort.

The specific site was picked for cleanup efforts because of its importance as the Kishwaukee headwaters, said Cindy Skrukru, chairwoman of the Environmental Defenders Water Resources Protection Committee.

“There are a lot of invasive plants we need to clear out so that the oaks and hickories that are native to this site can come back,” she said.

The property is jointly owned by the Environmental Defenders, the McHenry County Conservation District, the city of Woodstock and the Soil and Water Conservation District, Skrukru said.

This is about the 10th year the Environmental Defenders has taken part in Make a Difference Day, she said.

Part of the day involves educating volunteers about the property.

“I like working to help the environment,” said Woodstock High senior Alexis Fosse, a member of the high school’s Envirothon team.

Aside from helping the environment, senior Dana Lewellyn said, “It’s fun cutting things down – you get to use those big tools.”

Alfredo Padilla of Venezuela came out to help with his friend, Lynn Overbay of Crystal Lake. A weed science teacher at the Universidad del Tachira, Padilla said of the cleanup effort, “It makes me laugh because this is what I do.”

“We try to save the trees,” he said. “We plant trees in the mountains trying to protect the water – to restore and to save the water sources of the mountain.”


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