Island needs its own Anti-Ivy League

Faced with a moribund economy and widespread unemployment, President Franklin Roosevelt unveiled perhaps this nation’s greatest-ever environmental

stewardship program: the Civilian Conservation Corps.

From 1933-42, with its workforce swelling to half a million young men or more, “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” built fire towers in national forests, improved streams and fixed erosion problems, and planted some three billion trees on public and private lands across the country.

Truly, those were more enlightened times. Today’s stewardship is left to volunteers, and national service is reduced to marching off and imposing an administration’s will on foreign lands...but we digress. Instead, we ought seriously to look to Roosevelt’s CCC for some inspiration as we mark Earth Day this weekend.

We’re pleased that English ivy removal continues to be a focus of activity, yet disappointed that a community so vocal in its love of trees does little to eradicate this blight the rest of the year.

Any cruise down Sunrise Drive, the Phelps and Euclid areas, or the Highway 305 corridor will show stands of healthy trees being overrun by the foul vines. Both of our state parks, particularly Fort Ward, have dreadful ivy problems. Even the treasured Winslow ravine is being smothered under the green tendrils.

The plague of hedera helix is well documented: “It creates ‘Ivy Deserts,’ areas so dominated by ivy that no other vegetation survives. Ivy affects trees negatively, especially when it climbs into the canopy. By adding weight to limbs and reducing air flow around the tree’s trunk, ivy makes a tree more susceptible to canopy failure, wind stress and disease. It can also strangle trees around their base and reduce the flow of nutrients up and down the tree.” (See www.ivyout.org for more information; the “out” stands for “off urban trees.”)

This weekend, Blakely Harbor and Fairy Dell parks will get some needed attention from hardy volunteers. But what then? When will ivy removal become a year-round conservation cause for Bainbridge Island?

A fine municipality to our south shows the way. The city of Portland, Ore., whose lovely west hills are blighted by the vine, has organized a No Ivy League (motto: “De Vine Intervention”) with public funding and staff support from the tri-county government organization Metro. Weekend removal projects for volunteers run year-round; more significantly, the city hires summer work crews of youths at 30 hours a week, clearing ivy from parks and road rights-of-way.

Why shouldn’t our own city earmark some funds for summer youth jobs (perhaps coordinated through Bainbridge Youth Services), and make ivy removal the cause of a new “Bainbridge Conservation Corps”? Cannot our park district or private citizens organize a year-round Anti-Ivy League?

One can imagine the robust men of Roosevelt’s brigades, had they encountered it in their day, hacking through English ivy to save every woods and forest.

It’s time to bring our volunteer spirit together with public agency support, to build a conservation army of our own.

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