Wilson Daily Times Aug. 2, 2007

State OKs trim at Rec

By Keith Barnes

Daily Times Photojournalist

The tall grass and undergrowth along Hominy Swamp at the Recreation Park is finally being cut.

Despite a blazing sun and swampy working conditions, city crews spent most of Wednesday with weed trimmers, chain saws and lots of manpower, cutting and cleaning the 2,700-foot long area that runs through the park.

The undergrowth had become a controversial subject in recent months, as many citizens and local officials spoke out about the area as being unsightly.

The reason for the lack of trimming apparently stemmed from confusion over language in conservation easement documents stating what kind and how much of the vegetation could be cut.

The city entered into an agreement in 2001 with the Wetlands Restoration Program to help reduce flooding along the Hominy Swamp Creek.

Under the plan, all growth along the stream is eventually to become part of a matured forest buffer zone intended to stabilize the stream banks and filter nutrient and sediment runoff.

In the meantime, however, there was a growing concern over the height of the grass and undergrowth along the creek that went with the program.

All trimming questions have apparently now been resolved following recent on-site meetings between David Lee, Wilson Parks and Recreation director, and Steven Roberts, a vegetation specialist with N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the agency that oversees the project.

"We got it clarified what we could and could not do," Lee said. "We now have a plan, and we feel good about the future."

The program now in place calls for the area hereafter to be maintained and thinned out twice a year during May and August.

Most of the trimming along the creek was completed Wednesday with the section lying within the miniature train area to be finished by today.

Dale Edmonds, Wilson parks superintendent, explained that in addition to the tall grass and underbrush, a few willow trees along the creek were also removed.

He said the willows were shading out the desirable trees, which included oaks, maples, dogwoods and sycamores.

Roberts explained that while the creek issue is a complex one, his agency is willing to work with the city.

"We have to restore and enhance the stream and wetland system in a way that improves the water quality and habitat," Roberts said. "We are trying to improve the stream and make it healthier while meeting the needs of the park, as well as improving habitat and water quality downstream."

barnes@wilsondaily.com | 265-7855