‘Mavs in Action’ tackles Rasmussen’s buckthorn

Bailey Brendel ® Staff Writer |
Photo by Kjerstin Hall ® Staff Photographer |

Eleven Minnesota State University student volunteers met up at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to remove invasive buckthorn plants at Rasmussen Woods. The event replaced the annual cleanup at Sibley Park put on by Mavs in Action.

“We got connected with Mankato city,” said Alex Trewatha, graduate advisor of community engagement. “Because of COVID restrictions, we needed something closer, so the city got us connected with the Rasmussen Woods.”

The project aimed to remove buckthorn plants. Buckthorn is an invasive species that outcompetes many other plants, leaving essential native species to die from lack of nutrients, sunlight and space.

The group met at the red statue to sign in, then walked together to Rasmussen Woods. Once there, they were met by Department of Natural Resources employee Randy Schnidle, who brought the group to an area with an extreme buckthorn outbreak and taught them proper buckthorn removal. 

Students split into three groups of four — to follow social distancing guidelines — and worked together to remove buckthorn. One person would cut the plant, another sprayed the stump to prevent even more buckthorn from growing back, and the other two dragged the cut plant back on the trail for the city to pick up and properly dispose of. 

Students at the event had various motives for volunteering. 

“I’m using this as an opportunity to get credit for a class as well as a chance to meet new students,” first-year student Jacob Sparrow said. 

“I just really care about the environment,” fourth-year student EmmaLee Krosch said. “And I’ve pulled buckthorn before so I know all about how it’s an invasive species.”

Both Sparrow and Krosch said this was not a new experience for them, as they had done similar buckthorn removal events while enrolled in their respective high schools.

When asked what their favorite part about the experience was, Sparrow said, “ I really enjoyed the conversations I had with my group.” 

Krosch later added, “I liked being able to see how much we cleared, because during it you’re like ‘Oh my god we’re doing nothing,’ but then you look and it’s not so bad.” 

After three hours of work and multiple 5-feet-high piles of buckthorn, the group embarked on the long walk back to campus up the steep hill on Stadium Road. 

Students interested in being a part of future volunteer activities can sign up for events on the Engage website (mnsumankato.campuslabs.com/engage). Mavs in Action is an organization that creates, plans, and discusses various volunteer events, such as the Rasmussen Woods Project. They meet every Thursday at 4 p.m. in CSU 238.

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