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Volunteers cut willows to help fight erosion

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Posted at 2:52 PM, Mar 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-31 16:52:47-04

HELENA — About 30 to 40 Volunteers bundled up Friday morning at Spring Meadow Lake State Park to cut and gather 1-3 inch diameter willow whips to be used as reinforcement at Black Sandy State Park’s tent site areas along the banks of Hauser Lake. Some needed assistance after part of one site slid off into the lake a few years ago.

"The physics of having many little stems along the lake shore breaks up the energy of the waves that are coming in," Helena Area Recreation Manager with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Craig Putchat told MTN. "A lot of the erosion is coming from, there is a lot of big boats that run around in Hauser in the summer and they throw big wakes. Those wakes do a lot of damage to the shoreline, but when you have a lot of physical matter there it tends to break up the energy of the waves.”

Working with Northwestern Energy’s River Fund Grant Program and the Lewis and Clark Conservation District, Fish, Wildlife and Parks is aiming to start weaving these willows into the banks in April.


But why willow you wonder?

“It’s kind of like the bamboo of Montana," said Lewis and Clark Conservation District Chairman Jeff Ryan. "It grows fast, but more important it forms an incredible root mass that ties these banks together.”

And an added bonus, willow is all over Spring Meadow.

“We’re going to be cutting one stick for about every five that are out there, so it won’t even be hardly noticeable,” said Putchat.

What was noticeable though, was the amount of volunteer support. Like Riley, William and their mom Kristin Ophus who jumped at the chance to lend a hand.

“We do enjoy using the parks in the area, so wherever we can help we absolutely want to,” Ophus told MTN.