Prescribed burn coming to Mill Creek Park in Dexter

A look out over the south part of the Mill Creek Park, toward the bridge on Feb. 5.
photo by Lonnie Huhman

By Lonnie Huhman,

Areas around Mill Creek Park will look a bit different this spring as a prescribed burn will take place in effort to clear parts of the park of non-native plants.

The burn will occur likely in early April, according to the city of Dexter.

The Dexter City Council unanimously approved an agreement at its Jan. 28 meeting for the scope of services from Plantwise to perform a prescribed burn in Mill Creek Park in an amount not to exceed $1,000.

Council made the decision after reviewing the recommendation for the treatment, also known as a controlled burn, made by the city’s invasive species management vendor, which is PlantWise.

After the vote, Mayor Shawn Keough said the treatment should be helpful, but the city will need to let the community know this will be happening and why.

Justin Breyer, the assistant to the City Manager / City Clerk of Dexter, said,” the prescribed burn will focus on the more natural, non-landscaped and non-turf, areas of Mill Creek Park.”

“It is designed to help eliminate non-native weeds and encourage the growth of native plants, while also removing thatch and standing dead vegetation,” Breyer said.

For comparison, Breyer said a controlled burn was performed in the rain gardens along Jeffords Street in the spring of 2018, and then  following that the, “rain gardens saw a very quick turnaround and positive growth from native species which are intended to be in the rain gardens.”

Breyer said the burn in Mill Creek Park will be followed by a spread of native seeds and planting of small plugs in certain areas.

In the report prepared by Breyer and Courtney Nicholls, City Manager, they said staff, “received a proposal from PlantWise regarding the potential to perform a prescribed burn in Mill Creek Park.”

The report said Plantwise is the vendor that currently performs maintenance in Mill Creek Park and the rain gardens along Jeffords Street, and cited PlantWise performing the prescribed burn in the Mill Creek Park rain gardens in the spring of 2018 with positive results and a quick turnaround on greening after the prescribed burn.

In the report, the city said the prescribed burn was discussed with landscape architect Paul Evanoff of the SmithGroup, who was supportive. Evanoff, also works with the city on park projects, cautioned about burning under trees and shrub beds and in manicured areas of the park.

“He also recommended not approving the overseeding and plug planting that was included on Plantwise’s scope of services, suggesting that he would be able to take care of these items independent of Plantwise,” 

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission discussed this item at their December 18, 2018 meeting and made the motion to recommend to City Council proceeding with a controlled burn of Mill Creek Park for the entire prescribed area, approximately 3.1 acres, to occur at one time; and to exclude from the approval over-seeding and installation of native plugs.

This fall the native seeding and plant installation will take place.

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