Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty for a good cause. That’s just what the Mihaly family did for this year’s Make a Difference Day in Westerville.

Glenda Mihaly and her two sons, Joe and Anthony, joined a group of volunteers at Boyer Nature Preserve for some good old-fashioned labor on Saturday, October 25 for the day dedicated to national service.

This annual Westerville event is a collaborative effort between the City of Westerville, Sierra Club of Central Ohio, MAD Scientist & Associates and Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries (FACT) all with one goal in mind: clean up Boyer Nature Preserve and clear the wetlands of invasive plant species.

As the sun began to break through the trees that morning, volunteers from all over the area began to remove Honeysuckle and Multiflora Rose at the park.

“It is hard work, but it is good to be out here with the kids,” said Glenda.

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Glenda’s son, Joe, is a fifth grader at Robert Frost. Although he needed to earn some community service hours, the family was there for more than just school credit.

“We chose this service project because of the park. We love Westerville parks and bike paths. When we come to Boyer to take a walk it only benefits us, but helping give back to the park will further benefit others,” she said.

Clearing out the invasive plant species has a bigger impact than you may initially think. For example, honeysuckle is not a native plant and upsets the ecosystem of the nature preserve. It is the first plant to develop its leaves and the last to lose them, meaning it creates shade that keeps other plants from growing.

“It really has a snowball effect. When one non-native plant comes into an area like Boyer, it can throw off the entire plant balance. This clean-up is a process that will take years, but every bit counts. Every person out here is helping restore this park to its natural state for generations to come,” said Mark Dilley, Founder of MAD Scientist & Associates.

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It wasn’t all about removing plants from the park either. The group also brought in new life, strategically planting native trees and bushes. And Anthony Mihaly was one of the first to plant a tree.

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Boyer Nature Preserve is different from many other parks in the area, holding special meaning for Dilley.

“I’ve done a lot of work out here. Boyer is a unique site with so much to explore. You don’t find many wetlands in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. The central pond has a lot of interesting wetland plants and wildlife species. Most people don’t have access to such a diverse and healthy natural habitat in their backyard,” he said.

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Because of it’s unique ecosystem, volunteering at Boyer is also a fun learning experience for the younger helpers.

“It is always a lot of fun to see the kids out there, working hard, getting excited about nature and being exposed to new things,” said Mark.

That sentiment rang true as the Mihaly kids zipped around gathering brush, laughing and talking about what they learned. And the more adults and kids alike develop a sense of connection to the natural world, the better the park system will be.

“This is their park too. We have such wonderful volunteers in the City and we are thankful for all they do. The more people in the community have their hands in helping at Boyer, the more attachment they will feel to the site and in turn, the park will become further valued, utilized and loved,” said Westerville Parks and Facilities Superintendent Doug Vineyard.

If you are looking for an opportunity to come out and volunteer at the one of the City’s parks, call (614) 901-6592 for more information.