More than 250 Fremont Middle School eighth-graders headed into Ray Lake Farms Forest Preserve behind their school Tuesday to remove invasive plant species as part of a community service project.
The marsh behind the school where they were originally supposed to enter became flooded overnight, so the students were forced to enter the forest preserve off the Erhart Road entrance, just north of the school.
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With the help of forest preserve district staff members, the students trekked into the muddy woods to pull out garlic mustard, Japanese honeysuckle and European buckthorn.
"These plants were brought over by our early ancestors and settlers as they came to the United States," Lake County Forest Preserve District Environmental Educator Mark Hurley said. "Garlic mustard was brought over as a spice in the 1860s, European buckthorn as a hedgerow. They became weeds in the United States, grow fast, compete with our native plants and take over the forest."
The students loved the experience.
"I think it's cool because we're out in nature and we don't usually spend this much time outside," Amber Burgess said while clutching a bundle of freshly picked garlic mustard.
"There's a lot more than I thought there would be. It's everywhere," said Nolan Feeney said while hacking away at some buckthorn.