New Haven park cleanup is for the birds

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Even on hot summer days, there are folks working to clean up several New Haven parks. You might think it’s just about picking up garbage or something, but what they are actually doing is..for the birds.

Malik Joyner is only a couple years out of high school, but he is a veteran of the Urban Resource Initiative. The URI cleans up parks, but not just to make them look better. They pull up invasive plants, as in plants that don’t grow here naturally.

“They’re bad because they’re not native,” Joyner said. “They’re not from here, so we want to take all that out.”

Not only are they not native, but for the birds who live in New Haven, or migrate through New Haven, invasive plants are the potato chips and pork rinds of the plant world.

“Invasive species are not the best for habitats, so they’re not the best for birds,” said Urban Resources Initiative Director Colleen Murphy-Dunning. “I like to think of it as junk food. So we wouldn’t eat junk food all the time, and neither should birds.”

“We want to take all that out and the best thing to do is take them out by hand and do it naturally,” said Joyner, as he showed News8 some of the plants growing in Edgewood Park. “This would be mugwort, so just pull this out and it’s pretty easy.”

Malik studied this stuff at New Haven’s Common Ground school. Several of URI’s workers are students there, and they work with park volunteers to clear out the invasives. The question News8 had was: How did those plants get here in the first place? Didn’t nature put them there?

“Well, you know, when we’re working in cities, in particular, it’s a place where we have a lot of disturbed area,” explained Murphy-Dunning. “When you create disturbances in nature, that’s when you get a lot of invasive species coming in.”

There are 10 different urban oases in New Haven, and the folks from URI go around to several each day, and different ones each day, working with local volunteers in those parks making sure nothing but native plants are there for the birds to eat.

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