Bidwell Park and Playground Commission Meeting of February 23, 2004
This annual report reviews the goals and objectives for the Vegetation Management Plan for Bidwell Park as well as various techniques that are being used or considered to achieve those goals and objectives. In the plan, it is important to note that a variety of techniques to managing vegetation are used. As a vegetation management tool, effective and sustainable control alternatives are welcomed. The use of herbicides tend to be a tool of last resort for specific applications.
In the latter part of 1993, a plan was approved by the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission (BPPC) to address invasive plant species through prescription burns and allow native species to regenerate. Both the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan adopted January 2, 1990 and the Wildfire Management Plan adopted December 1, 1991 addressed the vegetation management problem. Due to the lack of fire, better suppression technology when a fire did start, and the introduction of non-native vegetation many years ago, the park had become severely overgrown. This plan was the culmination of earlier work and the beginning of the present Vegetation Management Program in Bidwell Park.
On March 1, 1994, the BPPC approved a proposal to enter into a contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to do prescription burns in Bidwell Park. The agreement stated the City would provide personnel and equipment and CDF was to provide expertise and burn equipment to accomplish the goals. The Chaparral Management Program written by the CDF Resources Agency, dated May 1981, was the master document that provided the environmental review and analysis for this agreement.
Subsequent to the yearly burns, herbicides were used to control the Himalayan blackberry regeneration. The herbicide applications used in conjunction with the burns specifically targeted non-blackberries.
At its 7/25/97 meeting, the BPPC approved the following policy statement regarding the use of herbicides in Bidwell Park:
Consistent with the vegetation management goals and objectives as stated in the Bidwell Park Master Management Plan to manage for native species and reduce invasive non-native plants and trees, to minimize the use of chemicals in Bidwell Park to the greatest extent possible. Management techniques shall be evaluated continuously for best management practices to reduce the use of herbicides. However, as a method of last resort, use of chemicals shall be permitted if feasible, if sustainable alternatives cannot be utilized.
The initial plan called for rotational burns over seven years with at least three rotations over twenty one or more years. The intent was, over time, to convert areas where non-native species were replaced with natives. The plan included provisions for mosaic control to minimize visual impacts and staying approximately fifty (50) feet away from Big Chico Creek until a more detailed plan could be developed. Concerns focused on impact on riparian habitat, stream health, and erosion potential. A summary of the initial six years are presented below:
South Side of One-Mile – Picnic Area #00 to Hwy. 99 – Completed
South Park Drive – Picnic Area #2 east to Cedar Grove – Completed
Upper Park – Trash cans to Day Camp along Big Chico Creek – Completed
Learned – Broadcast burns were attempted. The Park Department discovered that berry vines do not burn hot enough to have a clean burn. Too much stubble was left behind. No herbicides were used – area quickly became overgrown.
Vallombrosa Avenue – Rey Way to Crister Way – Postponed
Centennial Entrance Corridor – Initiated
Upper Park – South Slope – Postponed – Not beneficial to burn at this time.
Learned – Found that cutting the vines and burning the piles was a very effective way to clearing an area. No herbicides were used.
Vallombrosa East – Crister Way to Walnut Orchard – Completed
North Park Drive – One Mile Recreation Area east to Hwy. 99 between North Park Drive and Big Chico Creek. Postponed – Proximity of the vines to the Creek requires careful study before proceeding with a burn program
Brown’s Hole – postponed. Work was beyond capability of available equipment and personnel.
Learned – Found that using herbicides after clearing and burning was very effective in eradicating vines and allowing natives to regenerate.
South Park Drive – Cedar Grove to Manzanita Avenue – Postponed because of length of time to work on North Park Drive
Five Mile – East on South side of Big Chico Creek – Postponed – Will be rescheduled for Year Six or Seven
Upper Park Road – North of parking area F and Day Camp – Completed
Learned – Perfected the procedure for clearing of the berry vines and used herbicides sooner after the burns. In subsequent years, unburned areas were evaluated on a year to year basis. Factors taken into consideration were the benefits to the park, safety of burn and difficulty of clearing areas.
Lost Park – Initiated – Lost Park received an initial clearing to remove vines and other vegetation to improve the visibility of officers patrolling the area.
Horseshoe Lake – Postponed until 1999
North Park Drive – Continued – The area between Cedar Grove and VallombrosaLane was cleared in this year’s program. The area around Picnic Site #25 was especially targeted to remove invasive tree species.
Council Ring – Revisited – The areas around the Council Ring were revisited by the crews from Salt Creek in January and sprayed in June This was one of the original control sites.
Cedar Grove – Initiated – Several areas in and around Cedar Grove were cleared by Salt Creek in January and sprayed in June
Five Mile – Initiated – Invasive vegetation was removed from the area east of the restrooms on the south side of the creek
Learned – While complete target plant death occurs quickly in late May and early June, the potential for non-target plant mortality increased when ester based herbicides are used. Ester based materials volatilize easily during warmer weather. An amine, or water based, material is safer for use during warmer weather.
North Rim Trail – Initiated burns – Began the process of controlling Yellow star thistle below the Easter Cross area
Horseshoe Lake – Initiated burns – Thistle control
Wildwood Park – Ongoing – Continued bi-yearly wetland burn program
North Park Drive – Initiated goat program
Upper Bidwell Park – Unplanned burn – The fires of August 1999 initiated a 1,600 burn of Upper Park.
Horse Arena – Initiated goat program – Thistle control
Rifle Range to Trash Cans – burns Completed
Parking Lot P to Easter Cross – burns Completed
Peterson Memorial Park Drive – Continued goat program – Grazed approximately 25 acres between the Walnut Orchard and Madrone Avenue, at Picnic Sites #39 and #40, east of Sycamore Pool, and west of the Sycamore Pool dam
Peterson Memorial Drive – Initiated goat analysis – Study the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of the goat program in controlling Himalayan blackberry
Horse Arena – Continued goat program
Golf Course – Initiated Arundo donax control program
Upper Park – Volunteers continued broom control program
Learned – Goats serve as a better follow-up vegetation control method in some instances. Manual Arundo donax removal works better than using chain saws. Repeated burning of an area for one target plant can have negative impacts on other plants within the area.
Peterson Memorial Drive – Continued goat grazing although program halted before completing area north of Big Chico Creek east of the One Mile Recreation Area, due to vandalism. Salt Creek crews completed invasive blackberry removal in August/September.
Arundo donax (Giant Reed) – Removal and chemical treatment. Removed 28 tons upstream from the bridge at the Golf Course down to the Club House.
Ailanthus – Completed bank treatment in Lower Bidwell Park. There were no prescribed burns.
Last controlled burns in Upper Bidwell Park (Parking Area B)
Goats grazed the area north of the Five Mile Recreation Area
Began Arundo donax removal continued downstream from the Bidwell Golf Course
Goats grazed the Walnut Orchard and an area east of Picnic Site #20
Arundo donax removal reached the Five Mile Recreation Area
The Friends of Bidwell Park focused on Bladder sienna and Privet making remarkable progress toward eradicating the former from Lower Bidwell Park.
The Vegetation Management Program was modified in 1998 to include the use of goats for Yellow starthistle and Himalayan blackberry control.
In 1999, the goats were used in place of manual control of the Himalayan blackberry. The height and thickness of the brambles proved to be very difficult for the goats and produced results less than anticipated. In 2001, Salt Creek crews were used to cut the blackberries during the winter and have the goats feed on them in the spring. The new growth was much more manageable for the goats, allowing them to eat the stalks much closer to the ground. This had a positive visual impact on the Park.
Another positive visual impact of grazing is the creation of extended sight lines due to the goats browsing and lifting the vegetation to about six feet.
Due to budget restrictions and the need to evaluate best management practices, goat grazing has been suspended for 2004.
In 1998, a group of concerned citizens led by Suzanne Gibbs experimented with removing giant reed at the Five Mile Recreation Area. The main location of the invasive plant is adjacent the Bidwell Municipal Golf Course as the seed source for infestations downstream. The experiment indicated it would be extremely difficult to remove an old Arundo clump from the creek bed. In response to this information, staff applied for, and received, grant money to initiate a mechanical and chemical removal program.
Hand and mechanical removal of Arundo donax began in September 2000 and continued into October 2000. Initially, City staff cut, treated, and removed, the Arundo. Midway through the project. Salt Creek crews were used to cut and remove the Arundo, and staff immediately applied a (Rodeo) solution. Early cutting was done using chain saws. This proved to be dangerous and it fractured the Arundo canes. Hand loppers were substituted for the chain saws. Not only was the work safer and quieter, the canes were kept intact, facilitating easier wick applications.
The results are encouraging – A total of 28 tons of Arundo donax was removed in 2001. In the same area, approximately two tons were removed in 2002. In 2002, removal and the treatment extended through the Golf Course removing a total of 13 tons. Follow-up included chemical treatment in 2003 on previously treated areas.
Staff anticipates at least one or two more years of follow-up with diminishing amounts of chemical. At that point, the project will be monitored.
There is interest in eradicating Arundo donax from Lindo Channel. However, that task is beyond the Park Department’s capability. There may be some opportunities to secure an outside group to assist and secure grant funding.
In addition to the Park Department activities, individuals and groups are involved with controlling invasive plants in and around Bidwell Park. Mr. John Copeland has been working with volunteers from the Native Plant Society to control Scotch Broom in Bidwell Park. His leadership is helping to minimize the threat of an infestation of broom. Volunteer efforts continued along Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park.
Staff is also working with a group of stake holders in the Big Chico Creek Watershed to collectively control the brooms upstream from Bidwell Park.
Limited spraying will be done in 2004. If necessary, spot treatments will be used to control blackberry in areas where goats are not feasible. The spot spray program will occur in a manner similar to the ailanthus program in which isolated trees are identified and treated using low volume/pressure application techniques. The techniques ensure the application is made to only the target plant. Arundo treatment will include spraying.
The Arundo donax program will continue along the north side of Big Chico Creek. Retreatmentswill continue to be necessary. Staff will monitor the regrowth and schedule treatments as needed.
Staff will continue to monitor the effectiveness of previous trunk applications. If retreatmentsare possible, the applications will be scheduled for September 2004.
In addition to ailanthus, staff may resume trunk bark applications on catalpa between Esplanade and One-Mile Recreation Area. This limited area will allow staff to treat the trees and then remove the dead snags as needed. Selected treatment areas will progress upstream in subsequent years.
Hand Removal for Early Infestations of Non-Native Blackberries
The Commission has asked for a program to hand remove small non-native blackberry plants before they become large plants. Staff recommends the triangular area bounded by Caper Acres, South Park Drive, Big Chico Creek and Hwy. 99. In addition, hand removal of other species on the north side of Big Chico Creek adjacent Cedar Grove. Salt Creek Crews are working in this area now and will continue of the north side from Hwy. 99 toward the One Mile Recreation Area and an area west of the Walnut Orchard as time and money allow. In addition, volunteers have expressed an interest to come in after the Salt Creek Crew to remove what has been left behind.
In cooperation with Chico Unified School District, site specific restoration work continues at Annie’s Glenn and Five Mile Recreation Area. Roxanne Baxter has been heading up the educational program that involves students from CSU, Chico and up to 40 school classrooms. Work is also extending to Lindo Channel. Park Department will continue to provide some funding and logistical support.
Summary of Projected Programs
Hand removal ofHimalayan blackberry in Lower Bidwell Park
Logistical support with tools and removal of Bladder sienna by the Friends of Bidwell Park.
Continue Arundo donax removal program.
Expand target species to include the list distributed by the Friends of Bidwell Park dated January 12, 2004.
Upper Park – Continue broom program as volunteers are available.
Continue control of Privet and ivy in the Five Mile Recreation Area and Lower Bidwell Park.
Work with the Friends of Bidwell Park and Native Plant Society in the mapping of non-native invasives, develop control strategies specific to types of material.
Exhibit A – Summary of Techniques
Exhibit B – Invasive Plan Species (Friends of Bidwell Park)
Exhibit C – Restoration of Chico’s Riparian Habitats (approved 3/28/00)