Silverwood Volunteers Recognized with INVADER CRUSADER Award

The Wisconsin Invasive Species Council and the WI Department of Natural Resources presented 13 awards or recognitions on Wed, June 7th at Wisconsin’s 19th Annual  INVADER CRUSADER AWARDS. The event took place at the Horicon Marsh Visitor Center to individuals or groups from all over Wisconsin.

Text of the Award

Silverwood Park Volunteers have demonstrated outstanding dedication in their efforts to remove invasives. Since 2018 they’ve worked together to nearly eradicate buckthorn, honeysuckle, and burning bush on 57 acres. Through their weekly workdays and hosting Operation Fresh Start crews, they’ve made a difference in the park and in the lives of students.

Rita Fox (center) receives the award on behalf of her team with Dane County Parks staff Claire Lamberg and Lars Higdon.


Recipient Profiles

Silverwood Park Woodland Restoration Team Yoshi Saimi, Mike Meier, and Rita Fox


Rita Fox is from Edgerton and headed up the efforts to get workers to come to the work days.  She began the Volunteer position of Volunteer Coordinator in 2015.  Actual woods restoration began in 2016 following an April Woods Walk/Plan of Action led by Dane County Arborist, Adam Alves.  An Edgerton High School Freshman Summit/Orientation to HS activity day did a morning work day under 3 oaks at the first turn in the woods with the guidance of Dane County Parks Volunteer Coordinator Rhea Stangle-Maier.  We began more brush cutting efforts leaving a knee high cutting; to later be cut and treated and Rita trained for Chemical Certification in November 2016 when needed to apply pesticides.    Newly hired Dane County Naturalist Lars Higdon (who nominated the Silverwood Volunteers for this award) was encouraging about clearing out invasives and the first Dane County Volunteer Chainsaw crew spent a previously unscheduled work day on the Friday before Christmas working in a foot of new snow on the first slope to the lake.  In May 2017 the first crew of OFS/Operation Fresh Start students and crew leaders came from Madison to help eradicate burning bush on the lake slope.   A few volunteers spent hours working under oaks in the South Entrance area under Rita’s direction.  Retired DCParks Naturalist Wayne Pauly came once a month starting in April 2017 to chainsaw and treat cut stumps. Shane Otto was then hired by DCParks and his use of a grappler on a skidsteer added lots of success with machine piling of brush piles! We also added the use of a Billy goat mower to our work in removing brush in the woods. It grinds up the little stuff and saves lots of time.

Yoshi  Saimi, from Stoughton,  was with the 2nd Volunteer chainsaw crew in December 2017 spending a Friday morning in the woods.  Knowing Yoshi from Ice Age Trail work, he was called upon in January 2018 to help cut down a huge old oak that was set on fire from sparks from a burn pile and then came back to the park regularly to work on restoration and was a part of our first 6 acre controlled burn, along with Tom Wise, another  Ice Age Trail friend and DCParks volunteer from the west end of  the county.

Mike Meier, from just  5 miles north of Silverwood Park, was with the 3rd Volunteer chainsaw crew from DCParks in December 2018 and returned to cut up firewood for himself and for me to haul away.  He then became a regular, coming most Friday and Saturdays to work on the restoration.  Mike took a noted interest in our mushroom log workshop where we inoculate mainly Shiitake mushroom spores into oak logs since April 2019. Mike has an amazing knowledge of prairie plants. He has headed up the spraying of resprouts and invasives and can usually tell what valuable plant is being missed with careful chemical spraying.

How We Did (and Do) It

Dane County Parks advertised our work days on their website.  Volunteers through the Friends of Silverwood Park became interested in joining us in the woods piling brush piles and helping with the burning of those piles.  Rita would inform volunteers by text or emails about work days.

Controlled burns continued every year from the first one done in May of 2018, helping to set back the problem with garlic mustard and other resprouting invasives such as buckthorn, honeysuckle and burning bush. To reduce the use of herbicides we do as much cutting and pulling of invasives like garlic mustard as possible, but do rely on spraying of mostly a Garlon/light mix of Escort in our backpack sprayers.

Rita thanks family and friends for helping with efforts to hand pull garlic mustard and work on the thistle problem in other parts of the park.