By: Chelsea Rath, WAC-HNG Associate

3_Invasives_david chelsea jasper CHROAs 2015 comes to a close, The Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge (WAC-HNG) reflects on the past year and all of the group’s accomplishments. Each new season brought with it new challenges, but also new successes.

Thanks to some incredible partnerships, over 450 acres of land were treated in the gorge, with more than half owned by public entities, including Chimney Rock State Park and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. This included the use of over 200 volunteers, totaling 600+ hours of work; most of those volunteers came from high school and college groups in the HNG and surrounding area. Through outreach efforts, 400 youth and 150 adults were educated on the effects of invasive plants and the benefits of native habitat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With summer approaching, one exciting project caught everyone’s attention: the goats at Chimney Rock. In May, 15 goats began hard at work to rid a 2 acre area of non-native invasive plants including Kudzu, Princess Tree, and Multiflora Rose, near the main attraction parking lot. The goats were a sight to see, scampering about on the steep mountain hills and chewing at Kudzu vines day after day. They even found themselves the star of newspaper articles and online posts. After a second treatment in October, the goats retired for the winter. The site will be monitored again this upcoming spring in order to determine the next steps to be taken.

Thanks to funds from the Hickory Nut Gorge Foundation, the NC Forest Service, and the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, treatment and outreach were able to continue through the end of the year. With that end of the year, a wonderfully surprising award was given to the group at the NC State Park’s Superintendent Banquet. The Craig Loche award was given to WAC-HNG for “exemplary service to state parks.” According to the award letter, WAC-HNG “is one of those rare entities in the world of stewardship where a cooperative public-private initiative has consistently exceeded expectations and has yielded meaningful and lasting results on a landscape scale.” Thank you for the kind words!

The work never ends and WAC-HNG has quite a few exciting things planned for 2016, including a Citizen Science program and quite a bit more treatment. To find out how you can get involved, visit www.wachng.org or email contact@wachng.org.