Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park is located at 614 N. Commons Ford Rd. just west of Austin. While the 215 acre park contained some of the most diverse and scenic habitat in the Austin Parks and Recreation Department system, it also contained one offsetting component. The 40 acre centerpiece of the park contained almost exclusively invasive grass species; primarily King Ranch Bluestem, Bermuda grass and Johnson grass. Invasive grasses choke out the native vegetation that would otherwise naturally grow in the soil type. The chain reaction impact results in the decline of virtually all wildlife species, particularly birds, which depend upon the native plants for food and cover. The history of the Commons Ford 40 acre tract is similar to the history of native tall-grass prairies that once covered much of the central and southern portion of the United States; less than 1% of those tall-grass prairies remain today.
Native prairie restoration also preserves our national heritage. Prairies contain naturally beautiful plants and wildflowers and have a positive impact on the environment. For more information on the rationale behind native prairie restoration and maintenance, visit our Project Rationale Page here.
The single-minded goal of the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization is the removal of the invasive plant species in the 40 acre section and the planting and maintenance of native wildflowers and grasses in place of those invasives. This restoration project is even more significant given its close proximity to a major metropolitan area and the ever-visible encroachment of commercial development on the park.
The organization began its fundraising efforts shortly after its inception. Those funds allowed the organization to commence removal efforts. Simultaneously, a comprehensive seed mix was developed which would be the most appropriate for the sandy loam soil type in the tract and which would also be the most conducive to attracting prairie bird species. Through the relentless efforts of the organization, its volunteers and its partners, approximately $60,000 has been raised through 2012. These funds, together with the in-kind support of Native American Seed Company, resulted in an initial planting of 70 native wildflower and plant species in February 2012.
The resulting spring and early summer rain kick-started significant growth such that by mid-summer the nascent prairie was amazingly full of natural beauty. By the end of 2012, the plants had turned to seed, sparking an influx of seed-eating and other prairie birds. The first post-restoration prairie bird survey has indicated a 50:1 increase in the number of individual birds found in the prairie as compared to the pre-restoration survey, as well as an 8:1 increase in bird species.
The prairie restoration project is in its infancy. Much remains to be done to combat a potential re-infestation of invasive plants and to augment growth through further native seed plantings. Additional fundraising efforts are ongoing. Commons Ford PRO also hopes to raise sufficient funds to construct a kiosk on the edge of the prairie which would provide educational information about the dangers of invasive plants species and the importance of native prairie restoration.
For a pictorial history of the project, visit www.flickr.com/photos/commonsfordpro. For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org