Teen racks up 777 volunteer hours for local Weed Warriors group

May 31, 2012

By Christina Lords

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Connor Reichenbach is no stranger to backbreaking work.

In the past year, the graduating senior racked up a staggering 777 volunteer hours — more than 32 full days worth — for Newcastle’s own nonprofit organization combating invasive species, the Weed Warriors.

Reichenbach’s internship, a graduation requirement for the International School in Bellevue, focused on nine projects and two educational events, including Earth Day.

Newcastle parks commissioners, friends and family attended the student’s internship presentation May 9 at City Hall at the commission’s monthly meeting.

Connor Reichenbach

Each graduating senior must complete a yearlong project on a topic or subject in which they have a particular interest. He said he hopes to study the environment as he looks forward to college next year.

“It is something that I’m passionate about,” Reichenbach said. “I feel strongly that we need to conserve the resources that we have and try to go greener to make it easier for future generations that we’ll have.”

Reichenbach’s internship included elements of site assessment, project planning, use of GPS technology and King County’s iMap, and creating a report on his findings.

Most of his work centered on combating four different types of invasive species: the Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom, English ivy and knotweed. Reichenbach participated in work parties removing a large section of mostly invasive blackberries in the north end of Lake Boren Park.

Each invasive weed has challenges volunteers and municipalities face for removal, he said.

Scotch broom, for instance, can have as many as 10,000 seeds per plant. Each of those seeds can be viable for up to 60 years. The Himalayan blackberry, not to be confused with native blackberry species, faces little resistance from other species and can swarm other plants and habitats.

“It disrupts the ecosystem because by taking away native plants and trees, it also disrupts the native homes of animals and the food that they eat,” Reichenbach said.

He suggested city leaders and the commissioners lay down wood chips or cardboard chips where the blackberries have been removed during his project at Lake Boren Park to help prevent regrowth.

While the work of the Weed Warriors has a strong element of volunteerism, the group is also focused on providing education about invasive weeds, their effects on native habitat and methods of controlling the species, he said.

It is the first time the Weed Warriors have offered an internship opportunity to a local high school student.

“We definitely want to continue with the internship program with the International School because this has been such a fabulous experience for us,” said Weed Warriors President Grace Stiller. “I hope that the Parks Commission and the city will embrace future programs like this with our up-and-coming environmental stewards.”


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