Experts to update plans to eradicate invasive kiwi vine from Lenox, Pittsfield parks


This story has been modified to clarify that the meeting was to be held Tuesday, March 29.

LENOX — An informational session will be held Tuesday on the battle to eradicate the invasive kiwi vine from Kennedy Park in Lenox and Burbank Park in Pittsfield.

A group of local officials and environmental specialists will update the public on strategy to remove the hardy, voracious ornamental vine from the county's open space and recreational areas, Town Planner and Land Use Director Gwen Miller said.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Lenox Library

Hardy kiwi is an edible, fruit-bearing, non-native vine that thrives in Berkshire soils and damages woodlands by climbing to a height up to 20 feet, crowding out and eventually taking down and destroying the tree canopy. According to historic photos, the vine was first used locally to decorate the Aspinwall Hotel in what became Kennedy Park. The hotel burned down in 1931.

The project to eradicate the invasive plant is being coordinated by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of the state Fish and Wildlife Department, Mass Audubon, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and the town of Lenox.

During the two-hour session at the library, updates on the efforts to combat the kiwi vine will be presented, focusing on the next phase of removal in Kennedy Park, where about 100 acres of the invasive plant have been identified, and on Mass Audubon's Pleasant Valley Sanctuary land.

The groups leading the charge are seeking volunteers to help remove kiwi plants, which are found not only on public land but also in homeowners' backyards, and to offer tips on identifying and removing the vines, since some of them can be pulled by hand to prevent further spread.

Professional crews have been contracted to identify the hardy kiwi in Kennedy Park, Miller pointed out, using best management practices. Contractors began the plant-cutting phase of the removal project last fall following a favorable ruling from the Lenox Conservation Commission.

The vine creates canopies, or amphitheaters, that engulf surrounding plant life and can cover a wide area, excluding native species and weakens the resilience of woodlands. The vine can cause safety hazards for park users as dead tree limbs can block trails.

State officials identified the intrusion during a site visit in 2014. Hardest-hit areas of Kennedy Park are in the northern section, including the Cold Spring Trail off West Dugway Road, the trailhead at the park entrance adjoining the Arcadian Shop parking area, the Woolsey Road Trail and the Aspinwall Trail.

BEAT also has been working with volunteers to map the infestation and to hand-pull and remove hardy kiwi from Burbank Park in Pittsfield, Miller said.

The next phase of removal, an application of safe, state-approved herbicide for the final eradication of the alien intruder, awaits approval by the Conservation Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection. The project is expected to begin later this spring or next fall, Miller said.

Presenters at the library on Tuesday include Thomas Lautzenheiser, regional scientist for Mass Audubon's Central/Western Division; Karro Frost, a conservation botanist from the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and Jess Toro of Native Habitat Restoration, LLC.

If you go . . .

What: Information session on efforts to eradicate the invasive hardy kiwi plant species

When: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Lenox Library, 18 Main St

Goals: Details on removal projects in Kennedy Park, Lenox, and Burbank Park, Pittsfield, and a call for volunteer assistance

Information: Lenox Town Planner/Land Use Director Gwen Miller, or 413-637-5500, ext. 1203


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