Why removing invasive species is a worthy project — from a Scout who’s done it

Courtesy of Siddha Bambardekar

Aiming to keep his community and the environment clean, Eagle Scout Siddha Bambardekar focused his service project on removing invasive plants from Tattersall Park in Oakton, Virginia.

“I always wanted my Eagle project to be a means of supporting my goal of environmental sustainability,” says Siddha, from Troop 761 in Ashburn, Va. “It is our duty to take care of our environment and to leave it better than we found it.”

What are invasive plants?

Wineberry plants. Courtesy of Siddha Bambardekar

Invasive plants are plants taken from their original homeplace and planted in a new environment in a different part of the world. As they spread, they have the power to cause the extinction of native plants and animals, destroy biodiversity and permanently alter habitats. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Management, there are about 4,300 invasive plant species in the United States.

Close up of Wineberry plants. Courtesy of Siddha Bambardekar

An example of an invasive plant at Tattersall Park is the wineberry plant. Wineberry is an Asian species of raspberry native to China, Japan and Korea.

“The species was introduced to Europe and North America as an ornamental plant and for its potential in breeding hybrid raspberries,” Siddha says. “Now, it covers forest floors — stealing water and nutrients from native plants.”

How do you plan a removal project?

The process of removing invasive plants from Tattersall Park was long and difficult but ultimately successful. It took many volunteers and more than 200 hours of work.

Courtesy of Siddha Bambardekar

However, most of Siddha’s planning happened upfront with help from Sara Holtz, a site coordinator with Fairfax County Park Authority’s invasive management area program.

After getting the county’s approval, Siddha and Holtz finalized the site and made an execution plan.

“We coordinated with volunteers, prepared brochures and training material, and did volunteer recruitment,” he says. “It also involved detailed project planning, including project execution steps, safety and volunteer hours tracking.”

Siddha had to research extensively to learn more about the invasive plants in Virginia. He discovered which plants were native and which ones were invasive, and that’s how he knew the wineberry plant wasn’t good for Tattersall Park.

Next, he created an instruction guide for everyone to follow so they wouldn’t remove the wrong plant. When invasive plants are removed, you have to pull them up from their roots and some of them may have deep roots.

“I created an invasive plant removal instruction manual, which included wineberry photos,” he says. “I emailed these instructions out to the volunteers before my project execution date so they could have an idea of what they would be working on.”

Siddha also provided examples on the day of the cleanup.

Courtesy of Siddha Bambardekar

“I removed a few wineberry plants and gave a presentation at the start of each shift to let people know how to remove the invasive plants and which native plants to avoid,” he says.

Since the cleanup of the invasive plants in Tattersall Park, Siddha says he has seen a difference in the park’s appearance.

“Removal of the invasive plants has given way to the restoration of ferns, which are native to Virginia,” he says. “You can see the regrowth of native ferns in various sections of Tattersall Park.”

Word of advice to other Scouts

Throughout this process, Siddha has learned that it’s a Scout’s responsibility to protect and nurture the environment. He encourages Scouts to join cleanup projects and spread the word about invasive plants and keeping their communities clean.

“The Outdoor Code and Outdoor Ethics beckon us, now more than ever,” he says. “Promote understanding of native plants by educational outreach. This can be through emails, blogs, presentations, public fair booths, farmers market booths and more. We owe it to our future generations.”

Siddha wants Scouts to remember that “every bit of inspiration counts. Use the EDGE method for spreading environmental sustainability awareness.”

About Sheniece Chappell 7 Articles
Sheniece Chappell is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.