Valley Forge park officials go after invasive plants with controlled burns

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — If you see smoke coming from the fields at Valley Forge National Historical Park on tuesday, don’t be alarmed. Park managers are the ones setting those fires.

Fire management crews from the National Park Service are in the area Tuesday and Wednesday to start and manage a series of fires on 135 acres of meadows.

They’ll be working in meadows along Route 23, known locally as Valley Forge Road, and along Gulph Road.

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The point of this: Burn out invasive plants, which are encroaching on the habitat of native plants in the meadows.

“We have over 1,000 different species of plants and animals at Valley Forge,” Park Ranger Jonathan Parker said. “And invasive species have become more of a problem for not only the park, but the other plants and animals that live in the park.”

The controlled burn is targeting Japanese honeysuckle, Himalayan blackberry, callery pear and Oriental bittersweet.

Parker says National Park Service firefighters, who do these kinds of controlled burns up and down the East Coast, are starting and supervising the fires. 

“Re-introducing fire to the landscape … helps us reduce the need to use herbicides,” he said. “And it is also restoring a natural process to the landscape.”

The Park Service did controlled burns last year, and park managers say it’s the only way to go after exotic invasive plants that degrade the habitat here and can’t be controlled by mowing or herbicides.

Park officials say most trails, public roads and buildings will be open during the controlled fires, although some areas, especially around the statue of General Friedrich Von Steuben and trails to the Grand Parade Field, may be temporarily closed for short periods.

Parker says most roads and trails through the park will remain open, and the public is invited to watch at the Varnum picnic area and Artillery Park as well as the Maurice Stephens House parking lot.

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