In 2022, the Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in southern Indiana was awarded a Friends of NACD District Grant. With this grant, the conservation district, in cooperation with Clarksville Parks and Recreation and the Floyd County Native Habitat Restoration Team (NHRT), have worked to increase awareness of invasive species, and the benefits of native species, within Clark and Floyd counties. They established five native plant gardens at a local disc golf course and hosted two workshops on the benefits of native plants and invasive species removal.
This project evolved after a group of disc golfers, who maintain a course in Lapping Park in Clarksville, Indiana, asked for assistance to control the erosion taking place on their course, and recommendations to control invasive species they had identified. A site visit by the Clark County SWCD confirmed that the disc golf course was developing denuded areas around many holes, and significant streambank erosion throughout. Japanese stiltgrass, an invasive summer annual, was rampant on the course. Realizing that streambank stabilization is a costly best management practice to implement, and that the disc golfers had a limited budget to work with, partners suggested native plantings to control erosion. Control methods for the invasives present were also recommended.
With the Friends of NACD District Grant funding, the project established five native plant gardens within Lapping Park’s disc golf course in locations where invasives had been removed or where erosion was severe. Signs were erected to identify each garden and explain the benefits of planting natives. Two workshops were held over the course of the grant. One focused on native plants, their benefits, and how to incorporate them into landscaping. The other, a Weed Wrangle workshop, taught participants how to identify invasive plants, and provided them with hands-on experience removing them from the landscape.
“With many of our staff unaware of what disc golf was, or that such an activity existed in our community, it would have been unlikely that we would have targeted the disc golf group through our normal outreach efforts” said Melanie Davis, administrative coordinator for the Clark County SWCD. “We are excited that we made contact with them and discovered their commitment to protecting the environment” Davis added. “We learned so much about the needs of this specialized community, and they were such a joy to work with. Being able to put this project into action has been a bright light in our outreach efforts,” Davis remarked. As a result of this project, the Clark County SWCD feels encouraged to seek out other non-traditional groups.
This project would not have moved forward without the funding and partnership provided by Friends of NACD. The project provided an excellent opportunity for the Clark County SWCD to educate the public about the detrimental effects of invasive species, and the beauty, diversity, and benefits that native plants provide to Indiana’s environment and the environment as a whole.
Partners in the project have expressed a desire to sustain the partnership and continue to offer educational opportunities on native and invasive plants. Preliminary discussions include plans to host annual Weed Wrangles and workshops. Additionally, since the disc golf volunteers will be responsible for maintaining this project site, the Clark County SWCD will maintain communication with them, and make the conservation district available for one-on-one and group-focused trainings as needed.