A local Audubon enthusiast is applauding Parkville city officials’ consideration of a plan to remove plastic netting in a federally designated wetlands area due to the danger it poses to area wildlife.
Mary Nemecek, conservation chair of the Burroughs Audobon Society of Greater Kansas City, said the netting poses a threat because wildlife “can become ensnared.”
Nemecek has been a vocal critic of the management of the wetlands since the city purchased the land from the county for $1 in 2019 with the understanding it would be used as a wetlands restoration project. She said the project is “a mess and was very badly done” and mostly blames the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who is in charge of the project, for mismanagement.
The larger question, she said, is why the netting, presumably installed to control invasive weeds that snuff out native plants upon which wildlife depend, was used.
Parkville Public Works Director Alysen Abel did not answer a reporter’s question about who ordered the netting’s placement but in an email, described the matting as “one of the construction issues the city and Corps have been working on.” Abel added that the city and corps are “working through a solution to remove the turf reinforcement mat now that the native plants are dormant.”
In addition to the netting posing a lethal threat to wildlife, it also has prevented maintenance workers from mowing or burning to control unwanted weeds, exacerbating the problem of weeds choking out native grasses and plants, Nemecek said.
She called use of the netting a “design flaw” and said she doesn’t understand how the Corps, with extensive experience overseeing waterways, including along the Missouri River, could make such a mistake. David Kolarik, a spokesman for the corps, declined comment “until after tomorrow night’s meeting.”
Nemecek said she has offered city officials numerous expert contacts to consult for advice, including Ducks Unlimited, but does not know if city officials had utilized these contacts. In addition, Nemecek faulted city officials for not communicating better with the public about the project, including sometimes not being forthcoming with new developments.
The city and Corps have reached no other new plans for the project and no timeline for completion has been set, she said.
However, Abel did not elaborate about the details of the project, including if there has been a recent valuation of the property. Another publication recently reported that the price tag for the entire project is $3.5 million, and the initial agreement had Parkville covering $694,250, but the amount had jumped to $906,700 in 2019.
Instead, Abel said the city’s “goal is to cover the 25 percent local match with the value of real estate.”
Nemecek said she also has wondered why the Corps authorized spraying for Johnson grass, considered an invasive weed, during September when the project should have been done in August. Nemecek, who said she witnessed the spraying and took photos, said by treating four to six weeks later the groups “lost the window” and called the effort “laughable.” As it now stands, the grass was allowed to create new seeds and, therefore, will produce more grass this spring, endangering other plants.
Nemecek said the Parkville designation is especially important because less than three percent of the country’s original wetlands, first discovered when Europeans settled here about 200 years ago, remain today.
A Hudsonian Godwit serves as an example of a bird that relies on the wetlands for its existence, she said. The bird engages in a non-stop migration from Chile to Parkville each year on its way to the New York Hudson area, she said. The bird flies six to seven days without stopping before arriving at the wetlands to eat, drink and rest before continuing its migration to Hudson, N.Y. Because they realized its importance, Nemecek said she and others with the society successfully lobbied Congress for money to be allocated for the project.
“We were very excited,” Nemecek said of enthusiasts’ initial reaction to news of the establishment. She said, “It wasn’t until the project started going in that we became pretty concerned.”