“It’s everywhere! It is one of those things where I realized it was a big problem and damaging our trees. I saw that it was taking over in Selvoski Park, and I knew something had to be done about it.”
Gabriel Deml, an Eagle Scout from Bedford, is talking about oriental bittersweet.
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is a deciduous, woody, perennial vine native to China, Japan and Korea that was brought to this country in the mid-1800s as an ornamental plant. Bittersweet is now considered a serious invasive species because it poses a significant threat to native plants.
To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, Deml had to complete an Eagle Scout Service Project. He chose to organize volunteer workdays in September to remove bittersweet in Selvoski Park. Photos from before the workday show bittersweet strangling trees and covering up sponsorship banners along the home run fences—a problem Deml knew would only get worse with time and without action.
“Organizing projects like this is harder than it looks,” said Deml. They require significant time and effort to research, plan and find funding to support the project.
During the planning stages of the Selvoski Park project, Deml discovered the Nature Groupie Seacoast Stewardship Tool Library . The tool library lends items (shovels, gloves, pruning saws, pry bars, etc.) used for trail maintenance, invasive weed pulling and habitat improvement to volunteers. Deml coordinated with UNH Extension staff to secure the most appropriate tools for the job.
Deml’s service project went off without a hitch. More than 15 volunteers including scouts and people from Deml’s friend circle, family, church and FIRST Robotics team cleared Selvoski Park of oriental bittersweet in two days. Root wrenches from the tool library made quick work of removing the challenging plant. Deml distributed educational handouts from UNH Extension to educate volunteers about invasive species in New Hampshire and how they can help. Workdays gave way to a bittersweet bonfire and celebration of the accomplishment.
“Before it felt like ‘What is all of this stuff? It looks terrible!’ After, we all felt good about how nice the park looked,” Deml said.
With a successful project completed, Deml was awarded his Eagle Scout rank in November. Now he’s on to another big project: applying to college. “If I didn't have access to the tool library, I would have had to fund raise to buy tools or asked volunteers to bring their own, and who knows what they would have had,” he said. “I would still be fundraising for my project now.”
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