DALLAS — Hayden Colvin said his time in the Boy Scouts has been “a life-changing experience.”

“You learn so much, you meet so many new people,” said Colvin, 18. “You do so many things you wouldn’t normally do, things you wouldn’t think about doing.”

That’s true of the service project Colvin recently completed to earn the rank of Eagle: Removing English ivy from Polk County’s Nesmith Park in Rickreall.

Colvin said he contacted the Rickreall Watershed Council to find out if they needed assistance.

RWC Coordinatory Lucas Hunt says he keeps several tasks on hand to give to volunteers. The groundskeeper at the Polk County Fairgrounds & Event Center has kept an eye on the invasive ivy for some time, and told Hunt about it.

Though it is spreading, Polk County’s parks maintenance crews didn’t have the time or resources to remove it, Hunt said.

Colvin agreed to organize a work party to begin removing the ivy, which has established a strong foothold in the undeveloped section of the park. He recruited 20 volunteers to help.

“They told me why the ivy needed to go and what it does to the surrounding plants and animals in the area. I got a group together, and we went out for one day and removed as much ivy as we could from the main areas of the park,” Colvin said. “It will help keep everything growing and healthy out there.”

Hunt said the ivy has grown in the park unchecked for five or 10 years, and has climbed trees up to 20 or 30 feet.

“Ivy is also parasitic, so it sends specialized roots into the tree bark all along the climbing length and saps nutrients from its host,” he said.

It’s possible that settlers brought the ivy to the area when they built their cemetery, or it was dumped as landscaping waste years ago, he said.

“If you visit the park, you can see that it dominates the understory, leaving little growing space for native forbs and shrubs,” Hunt said.

Colvin was impressed that so many people are willing to help.

Hunt said Colvin may encourage more volunteers to keep the removal effort going.

While it doesn’t involve removing invasive species, Colvin said scouting gave him his first experience with what he hopes will become his career: Automotive repair. After graduation, he plans to attend Linn-Benton Community College.

“It was the first badge I earned in Scouts, and it showed me about working on cars and different vehicles. I have an interest in that,” he said. “I’m going to go to college to become a mechanic this year.”

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