It was a good idea: after committing to mowing alongside the Empire State Trail stretch from Ohioville to the Thruway, New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez worked to get donations and volunteers to plant native wildflowers on many of those slopes instead of planting and cutting back grass. There are only two full-time town employees who do that work, and that’s a big chunk of time for such a small department. However, the flowers that did well at first are now threatened by encroaching mugwort, an invasive plant that spreads by seed and root, and tends to retard insect predators and plant competitors around itself.
Liz Elkin, president of Bloom Fine Gardening, has agreed to again commit company resources to help. Elkin helped organize the original volunteer planting and now proposes a five-year plan to knock back the mugwort through consistent maintenance. It’s not going to be mowing, but it will take labor hours. There will be monthly volunteer days on the first Wednesday of the month during the growing season, both to cut back mature plants and to pull the younger ones by hand; someone will have to take a pass through the area to beat the plants back with a weed-whacker two weeks later. It was originally suggested that this be a Town employee, but there’s interest in getting a volunteer on that duty, as well.
Elkin is confident that mugwort will not again be the problem it is right now, but it appears that this will only be possible through ongoing vigilance. It will also cost about a thousand dollars a year to pay for the necessary supplies and seeds to restore this area.