Katy Trail Honeysuckle Area

About Katy Trail Honeysuckle Area

Location: The Katy Trail State Park between Dutzow & McKittrick
Size: 27 miles x 50′ wide R.O.W.
Landowner: Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Missouri State Park System

Species of invasives managed for: Bush Honeysuckle Lonicera maackii

History of land and invasives management: The Katy Trail is perhaps the most successful ‘Rails to Trails’ project in the country.  It was originally home to the M-K-T (Missouri-Kansas-Texas) railroad. It is a 240 mile long park that is only 50′ wide.  Managing such an unusual shaped park is quite a physical challenge.  Keeping the Trail passable to cyclists & hikers alike is a daunting challenge.

The Katy Land Trust (KLT) operates in a manageable region between Hermann and the confluence of the Missouri River with the Mississippi. It covers counties on either side of the Missouri River, reaching beyond the floodplain into the Riverhills region.  The 27 miles section selected is in the heart of what is now referred to as the Missouri River Country, an agriculturally rich region that boasts beautiful hills & vistas, the German Heritage District and the Missouri Wine country, as well as a very popular section of the Katy Trail.

Dan Burkhardt/Founder of the KLT and Jay Doty/registered landscape architect & field restoration specialist for the Open Space Council first met at a honeysuckle hack event along the Katy Trail 4/18/15 in Augusta, MO. The Open Space Council was operating as a support to the Katy Trail State Park & KLT.

The event was rained on, and no one was allowed to do RoundUp applications (cut stump method) so most participants were encouraged to hike and pull garlic mustard instead.  Not to be thwarted from an opportunity to eradicate honeysuckle, Mike Smith/Washington teacher, Greg Poleski/Greenway Network and Jay Doty determined to make use of honeysuckle poppers & shovels to chop roots and remove the entire stumps of some fairly large honeysuckle shrubs, including a 17′ tall shrub that the State Park staff had dubbed the ‘Granddaddy of Honeysuckles’ just below the Augusta Winery, adjacent to the Augusta Katy Trailhead.

This made an impression on Dan, who had recently formed the StopHoneysuckle.org website and put up the Enemy of the State billboards along Missouri interstates.  The core message of StopHoneysuckle.org is that as much as it seems like it, honeysuckle is not omnipresent in Missouri.  It often exists in pockets and if “outlying” plants can be located and eliminated the spread of the plant can be controlled.   The Katy Trail corridor provided an ideal location to demonstrate this thesis.  The assertion is that we desperately need a model (or several) for combatting invasive plants, like stream teams combat trash in our rivers.

He reached out to Jay and through some initial meetings describing his vision for the project. Together they determined that the mapping required was not technical enough to require a GIS system, but could be easily created within Google Earth, using its built in mapping features.

Over the course of a 3-week period of late May to mid-June of 2015, Jay mapped 27 miles of the Katy Trail.  The process was a fairly detailed drive-through technique where a vehicle was run along one side of the trail.  With each spot identification of honeysuckle along that side of the trail, a GPS reading was taken and the general size of the clump was estimated. Each incident was then mapped into Google Earth to give a easily understood visual representation of the density of honeysuckle within the KTSP right-of-way.  It does not give an accurate representation of honeysuckle plant communities adjacent to the state park, though some areas were noted for future reference.

This mapping is important because coordination of honeysuckle removal efforts along the Katy Trail are logistically challenging. Volunteers must be transported along the trail to where the honeysuckle is. (Many areas are within walking distance of a town or Trailhead, but not all).  It was also noted that perceptions were of honeysuckle getting less prevalent the farther away from the Metropolitan area one wandered.  To a degree this held true, though honeysuckle never fully disappeared from the trailside plant community.

It is also evident that streams, roads, trails and Greenways provide good sunlight for emerging Asian Bush Honeysuckle and as such are/have become ‘vectors’ for the spread of honeysuckle around the state.

Results of management: Once the mapping was complete, removal events could more easily be planned, because the initial reconnaissance footwork was complete.  The first such event was hosting the MICDS High School football team, which used it as a team building exercise in preparation for their upcoming fall season.  That was followed by the Honeysuckle Hike accompanying the Annual Treloar Elevator Party.  Other smaller events were staged, each picking different sections of the trail, often matching numbers of participants to numbers of honeysuckle.

As we got down to fewer sections, Jay was able to go out a few days on solo efforts to clean up areas that had more sparse populations.  The gravelly base along the old railroad right-of-way made for ideal hacking conditions as larger plants could come right out of the ground.  Plants were not required to be physically removed from the site, but could be left in piles that would be shredded by State Park maintenance staff mowers, which cover those sections regularly.

Only the area between Marthasville & Dutzow still contain sizable populations of honeysuckle.  Despite the initial success and pretty low regrowth rates, it is understood that there are several large honeysuckle populations just off the Trail right-of-way, often cascading down off limestone bluffs above the trail that will provide future regrowth for years to come.  However, the hope is to lead by example and encourage other nearby landowners to follow suit, and manage the honeysuckle on their properties as well.

Current invasives management: KLT is not settling for removing honeysuckle just from the Katy Trail, but also mapping roadside honeysuckles along Hwy94 and HwyU (from Warrenton to Hwy 94).

Other groups will continue to come out during KLT-sponsored celebrations in the region.  2017 is the Bicentennial of Marthasville, MO.  KLT will be preparing a celebration between Peers & Marthasville which will take another chunk out of the honeysuckle between Marthasville & Dutzow.

Other information: No one group can make the difference in honeysuckle on a region-wide scale.  The hope is to continue to enlist more and more partners in the fight as people begin to understand better how it threatens their beautiful region!

two men smiling as they volunteer to remove honeysuckle

The first event where Mike Smith & Jay Doty teamed up just below Augusta winery, a few feet east of the Augusta Trailhead.

thick, branching stems (or small trunks) of invasive bush honeysuckle, denuded

One of the larger honeysuckle along the trail just west of Treloar.

Warrenton newpapers article about our hack with the MICDS football team.

Warrenton paper’s article about our hack with the MICDS football team.

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