KC Parks volunteer experience: removing invasive honeysuckle

Our team worked with Parks staff as we hacked and hauled honeysuckle through a curated volunteer experience.

Photo of Parks employees and KCtoday team

KCtoday + KC Parks = The Honeysuckle Destroyers.

Photo by KCtoday

Table of Contents

It’s hiding in plain sight. It’s the bane of native plants. It smells good, but it behaves bad.

It’s called honeysuckle.

This invasive plant is a big problem in Kansas City, choking out local flora + overtaking pathways. Basically, it cuts off access for both plants and humans — a lose-lose situation.

Here’s the current state of parks, a look inside our volunteer experience, and how you can get involved.

Honey, we’ve got a problem

Honeysuckle spreads quickly for a couple reasons. The seeds scatter through birds, and the shrubs grow fast + dense.

There are 221 parks in KCMO alone — most (if not all) have this problem. However, there just aren’t enough workers to keep up with the horde of honeysuckle.

“We’re one of the largest land owners in the City of Kansas City, so how we manage our land is important,” environmental manager Stephen Van Rhein said.

The volunteer experience

KC_Honeysuckle demo

Stephen Van Rhein showing the honeysuckle root collar (as the invasive plant poses in the background).

Photo by KCtoday

To help, KCMO Parks Resident engagement officer Kelly Jander created a program that empowers volunteers. One way is through the Parks Ambassadors program, which provides special training, exclusive events, and a free T-shirt. Another is through curated individual + group experiences. That’s where we came in.

KCtoday met up with Stephen and Kelly at Penn Valley Park, where a path was totally overrun. The goal: clear the hill of honeysuckle.

Our team worked hand-in-hand with Parks staff as we hacked, hauled, and treated with chemicals (focused doses of tordon on the stumps’ cambrium) so the plants don’t regrow.

“If we clear this all out and then ignore it for three or four years, it’ll be right back,” Stephen said.

This was just phase one of a five-year process.

They need your help


It’s a beautiful day to kill honeysuckle.

Photo by KCtoday

Volunteering is easy — all you need to do is find half a day and send an email to KCMO Parks.

If you want to volunteer monthly, consider becoming an ambassador.

Finally, you can register to participate in The Great City Cleanup 2.0, a city-wide beautification event on Sat., Oct. 29.

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