RACINE — Every day, thousands of motorists drive down Spring Street and probably don’t notice Colonial Park much.

But over the next five years or so, major changes are planned to restore natural plant growth at the park.

“Colonial Park is kind of a gem in this area,” said Dave Giordano, executive director of the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network. “You’d be hard pressed to find a natural area like this anywhere close to this spot.”

Giordano, along with Mayor John Dickert and Melissa Warner of Weed Out! Racine, announced on Wednesday a restoration project aimed at bringing back wildlife and vegetation to the Colonial Park area.

It will cost roughly $300,000 to $400,000 to restore the ravine and wetlands and remove invasive weeds, Giordano said. The group “fully intends” to pay for the project without public funds, he said.

Collaborative effort

Over time, Giordano said, invasive plants have made a major impact on the area.

“You’ve got the ravine that’s eroding and that sentiment load is building up and eroding the banks,” Giordano said. “And it builds up downstream in the wetland and that damages the habitat. You don’t have all the cracks and crevices for the creatures to hide and create that food chain.”

Higher amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen have made it difficult for wildlife to call the Root River home, Giordano said.

“When you got excess nutrients like that, it creates a lot of algae growth,” Giordano said. “It chokes off the oxygen. No oxygen, no ecosystem. That’s a problem that plagues the Root River.”

Using funds from various grants, Weed Out! Racine is one of the main volunteer groups tasked with clearing out invasive plants.

The organization last year put about 500 volunteer hours into the park, Warner said. This summer, the group is hoping for 750 hours.

“The worth of our volunteer hours is much higher than the actual grant value,” said Warner, who is president of the group.

Warner said Weed Out! Racine plans to remove more invasive species at Colonial Park from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. Those interested can contact the organization through its Facebook page.

Personal gifts, along with grants from groups like the Fund for Lake Michigan, Sweet Water Trust and others, help pay for the invasive species removal and planting of native plants, Warner said.

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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