Looking to make most of trail-side prairie restoration

(Posted Sept. 9, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The bike trail that runs through London is a recreational asset, but what about the vegetation on either side of it? If you ask Julia Cumming, those trees, flowers and grasses are ecology and history lessons just waiting to happen.

At the recent Madison County Park District meeting, Cumming talked about the idea of installing plant identification signs along the trail. Over the years, volunteers have seeded many stretches of the path with prairie plants once native to the area. She wants to highlight those, along with other vegetation.

“We have had feedback from trail users that they would love to know what they’re riding by,” said Cumming, who works for the Madison Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and serves as a liaison between the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT), a volunteer group that helps to maintain and improve the trail, and the park district board, comprised of the three Madison County commissioners.

Each summer, SWCD and FMCPT host a prairie grass appreciation ride along a segment of the bike path known as the Prairie Grass Trail, the trailhead for which is located behind the Madison County Senior Center on West High Street. Cyclists learn about plants such as royal catchfly, queen of the prairie, prairie coneflower, big bluestem and Indiangrass.

Cumming said ecological signs would allow all trail users an opportunity to learn about their surroundings any time of year.

To get such a project off the ground, Cumming said she would like to forge an official partnership between the park district board and SWCD. The commissioners encouraged her to work up a proposal.

The idea, she said, would be to gather together ecology experts, teachers and students to work on the project. Possibilities include Metro Parks personnel and instructors and students involved with the Tolles Career and Technical Center’s greenhouse. She sees the group then soliciting area businesses for donations to cover the cost of the project, which in turn would spread awareness of the bike trail’s natural assets.

In other bike trail news, the park district board gave Madison County Engineer Bryan Dhume the go-ahead to hire Peterman’s Tree & Lawn Service of West Jefferson to remove dead trees along the bike trail between Wilson and Glade Run roads at a maximum cost of $8,977.

Alan Knowles, FMCPT member, suggested that Dhume ask Peterman’s to leave some of the resulting logs along the trail to save money on chipping and to create wildlife habitat.

Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director, reported that the group has raised over $63,000 (91 percent) of the funding needed to cover the cost of the recently completed trail extension between Maple and Walnut streets. Knowles added that a donor had put a $1,000 check in the mail to boost that number even closer to the end goal.

To learn more about the bike trail, go to www.fmcpt.com.

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