Kids from around the country on a Christian mission pull Kansas City's invasive honeysuckle
Hundreds of youth affiliated with different religious groups have been pitching in to help Kansas City remove an invasive plant species.
A crew of teens and preteens swarmed the hillside at Gillham Park wielding loppers, saws and herbicide midday Wednesday as temperatures climbed into the 90s.
Most didn’t seem to mind.
Sydney Tatro, 14, yanked on a long vine of Asian bush honeysuckle that was fighting her with every tug.
“What is this stuff?” she jokingly shouted.
Hundreds of youth, like Sydney, affiliated with different churches across the country, descended on the metro this week as part of their summer mission to help build or repair local structures and do good works.
Some groups spent their days clearing the yards and yards of Asian brush honeysuckle from Gillham Parkway that has been frustrating Parks and Recreation employees for decades.
“Once you see it, you can't unsee it,” said Kansas City Parks and Recreation volunteer coordinator Sara Becker. “It's everywhere and there's just kind of a wall of it. And so we're working on clearing it out and making room for native plants to grow in its place.”
Becker said church youth are just one group removing the stubborn plant and doing other volunteer work with Parks and Rec.
She said different corporate groups and organizations can participate as team-building exercises too.
“We would not make a dent – nowhere near as impactful as what we're doing here,” she said. “We have a great staff, but the more hands we have, the better. It's not something that our resources can handle on our own.”
Stephen Van Rhein is Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation environmental manager. He says the invasive honeysuckle has overrun the pathway along Rockhill Terrace that borders the west ridge of Gillham Parkway.
“If we can get the native plants back, then it’s a pleasant place to walk,” he said.
Van Rhein said the Asian brush honeysuckle runs rampant all over the city. Its fruit is not even nutritious for birds.
He said this kind of cleanup makes it easier for Parks and Rec to do touch ups and helps beautify the site.
“It’s an area that’s difficult for us to mow,” he said. “Connecting with these groups is extremely impactful.”
Mike Williamson brought about 130 kids with his organization World Changers. He’s a project coordinator with the national organization. Williamson’s own church is in Albertville, Alabama, but he brought participants from all over the country.
He said his group will visit and volunteer in 24 cities this summer.
“They go from one city to another each week,” he said. “These kids paid money to come. We sleep on the floor, whether it’s a school or a church.”
They usually go to low-income or elderly people who can’t afford to fix or repair their home.
“Getting their house painted and all that is very important,” Williamson said. “But there’s nothing like giving and serving others and expecting nothing in return.”