Project restores native habitat to Brush Creek oxbow in KC

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Kansas City
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KANSAS CITY Mo -- Volunteers on Saturday will plant native trees, shrubs and grasses along a segment of Brush Creek, bringing conservation to Kansas City’s urban core.

The “Brush Creek Oxbow Project” is coordinated by Green Works in Kansas City, a non-profit that promotes environmental justice and involves urban high school students in projects to improve the environment. Students will be among the volunteers planting greenery at the oxbow from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.

Partners in the project also include the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the Kansas City Parks Department and Burns & McDonnell Engineering. A $25,000 Five Star Restoration Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is helping with expenses.

A curved former channel of Brush Creek now holds a small oxbow wetland on the stream’s north shore, just west of the intersection of Cleaver and Benton boulevards. The oxbow curves around some island-like high ground that in the past has been maintained by mowing by the city.

The native trees, shrubs and grasses to be planted there will boost scenery along the stream, help reduce bank erosion and provide a natural habitat nook for wildlife such as songbirds, said Wendy Sangster, an urban forester for MDC. Sangster and Steve Van Rhein, a community conservation planner, are assisting with the project.

Trees to be planted include sycamore, swamp white oak and bald cypress that can withstand wet conditions. Shrubs on the planting list such as viburbum will bloom with white flowers in the spring and provide berries as wildlife food.

More native plants and trees will be installed along the stream edge on another workday on May 21. Later in the year, volunteers will install structures useful as roost and nest sites for bats and birds.

Besides providing wildlife habitat, Green Works also uses the workday as a teaching opportunity for 15 students participating in a year-long program about improving water quality.

“We will be talking to the kids about how shrubs and trees help improve our water quality,” said Kate Corwin, president of Green Works. “I hope they bring their kids there someday to see the trees they planted.”

Information about MDC stream programs is available at Information about Green Works is available at