LI volunteers battle invasive weeds in Caumsett Park

Eileen Anders, of East Northport, helps to remove Eileen Anders, of East Northport, helps to remove mile a minute, an invasive species, from Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Harbor, Saturday, July 12, 2014. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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The volunteers came prepared for battle with gardening gloves and large black trash bags.

They left Saturday with more than two dozen bags stuffed with invasive weeds after a morning cleanup at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve on Lloyd Neck.

The effort by about a dozen volunteers and park workers marked the end of Invasive Species Awareness Week, a first for New York. On Long Island, the initiative targeted various invasive plants taking root in parks, including swallow-wort, pepperweed and mile-a-minute weed.

"It's one thing to read about invasive species in a newspaper or a research paper, but it's another thing to get out there and see it yourself," said Sandy Polan, 52, a math and science research teacher at East Meadow High School, as she stood in knee-high weeds, untangling a thorny grasp of mile-a-minute vine.

Polan is convinced similar efforts can be good learning exercises for her classes.

"This is stuff kids can get involved in and make a difference," she said.

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The park needs all the help it can get, said Ariana Newell, regional natural resource biologist for the state parks department. "As the only biologist in the region, I really, really rely on volunteers to help me clean the area up," she said.

Mile-a-minute weed, or Asiatic tearthumb, the group's main target Saturday, is native to Japan and was probably brought to the United States accidentally, Newell said.

If left unattended, the weed, which grows as much as 6 inches a day, overcomes and eventually kills native plants and trees.

Joining the volunteers Saturday was Sarah Schoepflin, 19, of Port Jefferson, who's employed this summer to do similar work at parks for the state's Invasive Species Strike Team.

She's become an expert on identifying the fast-growing pests.

"Now when I'm driving around, I recognize them," she said. "They're everywhere!"

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