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USMMA Midshipmen Are Fighting: Kings Point Park Briar Patch

Protecting Open Space: Braving the Mud, Poison Ivy, Sharp Thorns, Mud, Underbrush

United States Merchant Marine Academy Midshipmen are braving muddy underbrush, poison ivy, sharp thorns, nippy weather and the vista of a big, big job to give back to Kings Point Park, the park they love that is located near the academy grounds. Senior Class President and Regimental Public Affairs Officer James O’Connor, with the cooperation of the Great Neck Park District and the Open Spaces Advisory Committee chaired by Martin Markson, are committed to protecting the parkland from an invasive and formidable vine, cat briar. It grows straight up, tangles around saplings, bushes and trees and eventually makes for an impassable thicket of thorns. It poses a real threat to the park because invasive species are successful in mangling and strangling other competing native plants and if left unchecked will continue an inexorable march through the 98-acre parcel of forestland.

Midshipman O’Connor, leading a group of 60 plebes, who labored from early morning to late afternoon this past Saturday, told the Record, “We really love this park...we barbecue and picnic here and use the softball fields...and we want to say ‘thank you’ to Great Neck and the park district by giving back.” A rotating group of plebes will pitch in to help for the next four Saturdays to fight the cat briar which spreads by underground tubers.

In addition to pulling, digging and cutting away at the cat briar, a team of plebes also spread mounds and mounds of mulch around the barbecue and picnic area and trails near the Steamboat Road entrance.

Readers may remember that two years ago, a herd of goats under the supervision of AmeriCorps volunteers, battled the cat briar, but one season of goats chomping away was predicted to be insufficient to stop its spread. And while the goats could have made a return engagement, getting AmeriCorps help again is difficult because so many communities across the country clamor for their services.

The goats were cute and the possible puns limitless, but the energetic, strong and good looking young people, men and women, working so hard, were a welcome sight last Saturday. We will check back with them in four weeks to see their progress.