SHA Volunteer Spotlight: “Too much fun not to get involved!”

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Greg and Elna Otto got involved with the Summit Hill Association shortly after moving to the area in 2007. Though they actually live south of the Summit Hill neighborhood today, they were so intrigued by the Sam Morgan Prairie at Linwood Park that they had to get involved.

Greg grew up right across the street from Linwood. “When I was growing up, it was a lot more open than it is now,” he explains of the growth of the neighborhood. Elna owned a landscaping business which gave here the knowledge and drive to be drawn to such a project.

The Sam Morgan Prairie project started when a small section of prairie land was found during the construction of 35E. “They actually located a part of prairie over there,” explains Elna. “It was quite a surprising find.”

There is a lot that goes into sustaining a prairie in the middle of the city. Initially, in 1998, the project involved removing nonnative plants, pruning bushes, hauling brush and tree limbs down to Pleasant Avenue for disposal and seeding some parts of the prairie area. Then in 1999, the first planting was done of additional native prairie plants to supplement what was there. With help from the city, two separate controlled burns were held in 2007 and 2009 that cut back on shallow-rooted non-prairie plants without doing harm to the deep rooted prairie species.

After the first steps though, a prairie is fairly self-sustaining since these native, deep rooted plants are perfectly adapted to the hot south-facing environment. Elna explains that by growing a prairie in its natural habitat, “you don’t have all the problems associated with care.” Still, non-prairie plants can take over if the prairie is not burned every couple years as would happen naturally.

Anyone interested in volunteering on the Morgan Prairie project need not have any special expertise. Greg and Elna recommend contacting Kate Pearce, the head of the Environmental Committee or the SHA office at 222-1222 to learn more and join the “prairie crew”!