Garlough Park sign with cleared forest in the background.

What’s Happening in Garlough Park?: Tackling Invasive Species With Forestry Mowing

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If you’ve been by Garlough Park lately, you may have noticed the formerly dense forest is now wide open. It looks like a bomb went off, with shredded debris on the ground and nothing but mature trees still standing.

A view of shredded undergrowth and cleared understory with the Charlton tunnel in the background.

So what’s happening?

Invasive Species Management

Great River Greening, in partnership with Dakota County and the City of West St. Paul, is leading an invasive species management project to clear out buckthorn that has overwhelmed the native forest.

Why: The dense buckthorn completely crowds out the native species. These forests were historically home to a larger number of native shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, and small trees. Removing the invasive species is crucial to restoring native habitat.

Where: Garlough and Marthaler Parks.


  • Most of the understory clearing is being done through “forestry mowing,” where a skid steer with a giant mulcher on the front mows down the buckthorn. They also do hand clearing, especially in steeper areas.
  • The process leaves shredded material behind, some of which will be burned in biochar kilns to create charcoal that improves soil quality. The remaining material will be mulched and redistributed or picked up and disposed of by the city.
  • In the fall, a herbicide treatment will be applied to reemerging buckthorn.
  • There will be some replanting to reestablish the forest, but mostly it will be left to grow back naturally.

When: Much of the work is already complete, but more will be done late this winter and early spring, especially in Marthaler Park.

Cost: The entire project includes prairie restoration with a price tag of $180,000. The forestry mowing portion costs about $96,000. Dakota County and West St. Paul each contributed $11,500 and the rest came from a state grant secured by Great River Greening.

Close up of a shredded sapling sticking up through the snow in Garlough Park.
The forestry mowing process intentionally shreds stumps, instead of cutting them smoothly, which amplifies stress when the plant tries to grow back—and the regrowth is often unsuccessful.

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