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‘Thoughtful’ Proposal for Invasives Removal Brought to IWC

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KENT—The Inland Wetlands Commission heard a “thoughtful” proposal for the removal of invasives and replanting within a wetlands area near Cobble Brook during a recent meeting.

The property, owned by Karen Pittelman and located at 173 Cobble Road, needs work along the rock wall that runs along the road. It is approximately 50 yards from Cobble Brook.

Pittelman was represented by Michael Baczewski of New England Pollinator Gardens, LLC, who said that part of the work would be done in a wetland.

The majority of the invasives removal will be done by hand with shovels and no herbicides or chemicals will be used.

The workers will strategically restore the disturbed areas and native trees, shrubs and grasses will be installed. He said this would create a beautiful landscape and a habitat for birds.

A side benefit would be reduction of stormwater velocity and filtering of water as it enters Cobble Brook.

“It’s a two-step process,” said Baczewski. “First is removal of invasive species, which in this case are mugwort, Japanese honeysuckle and garlic mustard, and then strategically replacing them with a blend of trees, shrubs and native grasses, adding habitat for birds.” He said conventional turf grass would also be removed in places and restored to natural habitat to create a landscape with a “functional value.”

In response to a question about phasing of the project, Baczewski said a first pass at invasive removal would be done this winter so that workers can see what emerges as plants start to grow in April.

Replacement plants would be sourced locally, with close attention to eco-types so there is a higher survival rate. “We’re thinking of plants that have thrived in Connecticut for 1000s of years,” he said.

He cautioned that removal of invasives is “not one and done” and that monitoring will be necessary to remove species at the right time.

The applicant would have five years to complete the work, but Baczewski said landscapes change and the trajectory of the project could also change.

“Being able to adapt and employing ecological, sustainable practices will be a work in process,” he said. “We want to work with Mother Nature on this site.”

IWC member Ken Johnson inquired about the grasses to be removed.

Baczewski said a lot of the land was in hay and is not a thriving meadow now. “It’s primarily cold-season grasses that aren’t doing much toward biodiversity.” He said silage tarping would weaken the root systems over time.

“The area is too large for ‘lasagna mulching’ and I wouldn’t advocate tilling because the bedrock is too high,” he said. “It’s a matter of just degrading non-native grasses.”

Werner said the plan “sounds very thoughtful and wetlands-responsive and friendly, but there are some basic things we have to have and others we want to have.”

She asked for a more articulate description of the work, the sequencing of events and the actual distances to the brook. She predicted the commission can act in February.

Kathryn Boughton
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