By Tim Douglass

The Barsness Buckthorn Brigade will be getting a boost in the on-going battle against buckthorn from a Minnesota Department of Resources (DNR) grant for about $50,000.

The grant request was written by Holly Kovarik, District Manager of the Pope Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and she said last week that she approached the City of Glenwood and the Buckthorn Brigade volunteers to write the request to the DNR, which provides specific funding for fighting invasive species.  The goal is to use the grant for work at Barsness Park this year, but the grant money will be available through spring of 2025, Kovarik said last week.  The monies will focus on approximately 50 acres on the north side of Park Road. The City of Glenwood will also be contributing to the project which will be considered match to the total budget of $57,666.  The city’s investment will be about 10 percent in “cash or in-kind,” she stated.

The Barsness Buckthorn Brigade is an informal group of volunteers and did not qualify as a potential recipient of the grant, Kovarik explained.  Staff at DNR suggested that a Pope Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) could be an option for making the request on their behalf.  The Pope SWCD Board supported the idea, and Kovarik proceeded to write the grant request. The request documented the importance of Barsness Park to the community: how it was being impacted by buckthorn; and the community involvement in efforts to manage the buckthorn infestation.  About 100 acres of the 250-acre park is infested by buckthorn, an invasive species.

Kovarik stated that the grant request also aligns with the Pope SWCD’s plan and work on invasive plants.  The ongoing buckthorn management efforts by volunteers at Barsness park also qualified it for the DNR grant, which focused on invasive species, including buckthorn, with priority for public-owned lands, Kovarik explained.

“Because there was a strong citizen group already working to manage buckthorn and is carrying out an on-going effort, that really helped the success of the application,” Kovarik said.  “This is just one part of a master plan,” she added.

The funds will be used to hire a contractor who will do the work to remove buckthorn.  Some of the terrain is challenging, Kovarik said, but the work will focus on physically removing buckthorn.  

The Barsness Buckthorn Brigade 

partnered with the City of Glenwood

The Barsness Buckthorn Brigade has been working in coordination with the city of Glenwood to remove buckthorn from Barsness Park and prepare it to make buckthorn more easily managed in the future. The group has been working once or twice a week in varying numbers since 2020.  The goal is to remove most of the buckthorn and make it possible to control it in the future with smaller Bush Hogs. It is estimated it will take 2-3 more years to get to the maintenance stage, according to the group’s leader and long-time Glenwood resident Wayne Zimmerman.

The Barsness Buckthorn Brigade also assists with work on improving trails, views, areas of interest, camping areas and monitoring the goat herd.  A goat herd was brought in last fall and again this spring because goats love buckthorn and will eat the plant and keep it in check.  The city contracted with Bryan Simon of Lakeside Prairie Farm LLC of Barrett, Minn. to bring in about 30 goats last fall and brought in about 27 goats that are in the park for the summer months.  Goats are an alternative to chemicals and equipment and effectively eat and can ultimately kill the invasive buckthorn plants, especially in areas like hillsides and ravines.  

In addition the group will also be monitoring and measuring its progress.  The Buckthorn Brigade always needs new recruits, according to Zimmerman.  

Zimmerman and the group of volunteers are encouraged by the community’s support as well as what the Buckthorn Brigade has accomplished over the two years.

Zimmerman said that buckthorn changes the ecological system by damaging the soil and creating a kind of “buckthorn desert” that prevents the growth of native plants, reduces the number of insects which reduces the number of birds, and dramatically reduces wildlife habitat.

How to donate

To support the Barsness Buckthorn Brigade’s efforts to remove buckthorn from Barsness Park, or for more information, contact the City of Glenwood at 320-634-5433.  Or send your tax-deductible donation to:  City of Glenwood, P.O. Box 254, Glenwood, MN 56334 and note on the check that it is for “Barsness Park Buckthorn Eradication.