Written by Mark Seder
The Effort to Maintain The Trail Area

Eradication and control of invasive species along the trail has been an ongoing project. A team of members, using the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plants in Tennessee list, identified four major species that were listed as severe threats to the ecological environment that were prevalent along the trail. These were Ligustrum vulgare, the common privet, Lonicera species, the bush honeysuckle, Albinia julibrissin, the mimosa, and Rosa multifora, the multifora rose. The magnitude of controlling the invasive privet, bush honeysuckle, and mimosa trees on both sides of the trail was overwhelming, so a decision was made to initially concentrate on the highway side of the trail.

During the removal of invasives, planting of native ferns and other wildflowers was started. Coneflowers and sunflowers were planted around the entry signs. Seed from native wildflowers have been sown, and plants from members’ private collections have been added to the trail. These include native columbine, Jack-in-the-pulpit, purple asters, alumroot, Solomon’s seal, native violets, ironweed, fire pinks, black-eyed Susan’s, goldenrod, phlox, cardinal flowers, Joe-Pye Weed, foamflower, butterfly milkweed, wild indigo, coneflowers, and dwarf-crested iris. Seed from native river oats have been planted as well. Native ferns have been added including maidenhair ferns and cinnamon ferns. Shrubs and trees planted include: serviceberry, beautyberry, hearts-a-busting, spicebush, sumac, fringe tree, maple leaf viburnum, golden St. John’s Wort, American holly, wild hydrangea, oak leaf hydrangea, and cranberry. The goal is to have native bushes replace the very prolific bush honeysuckle and mimosa.

Seven members of the Tuckaleechee Garden Club are Master Gardeners and through the efforts of these members, the River Walk is one of the ongoing projects of the Blount County Master Gardeners’ Association. The Master Gardeners have assisted in plant identification and provided research as to effective invasive tree and shrub removal, as well as identifying suitable native replacements for the invasive shrubs and trees removed. Members spend over 500 hours a year working on different aspects of the trail, including adding mulch, planting seeds and plants, removing undesirable plants, and picking up litter along the path.