- Zoe Zawacki
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
CVNP raves about the Green Climber LV600 as they use it to remove invasive species
As a continuation of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, this blog is dedicated to the fight for America’s biodiversity that so many vegetation management crews are working to preserve. Thomas Becker, Biological Science Technician of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and his team maintain around 33,000 acres. Recently they rented a Green Climber LV600 from Bobcat Enterprises in central Ohio.
“We rented the Green Climber so we could experience how the machine would handle the terrain,” said Becker. “We use a forestry masticator a lot in the park, usually on a skid steer. Seeing that there's a tool out there that can do slopes and has a similar variety of attachments, I thought it was fantastic.”
As the leader of the park’s invasive species management program, fighting against the expansion of unwanted vegetation is a daily exercise.
“The machine that we have currently, you can't take it on the side of any slopes, you have to have flat ground. The second you hit any incline it feels like you’re about to topple over or slide down the hill. Plus, with the size of the overgrowth in certain areas, that machine doesn’t really work well.”
The Green Climber was able to access slopes that had not been touched in years. As a result, the problems invasive species have caused over the years finally meet a solution. Clearing an area by remote mulching rids invasives for three to six years before having to enact smaller preventative maintenance again.
“In comparison, the Green Climber is small, lightweight, compact compared to that machine," said Becker. "I could just get into a lot more places and complete my normal jobs faster. I'm no longer limited to the type of work I can complete.”
Becker and his team are currently tackling an overgrowth of bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, autumn olive, buckthorn, and Chinese privet. These thick, brushy plant a difficult to eradicate traditionally as manually removing roses leaves crews cut up by the plant’s thorns. Alternatively, the operator using ride-on equipment must drive blind into a wall of leaves before assessing the gravity of the problem.
“The machine makes going to work so much safer, I can stand 500 feet away and run it in through some thick brush first, then follow the Green Climber in to see what else has to be done. This machine is a lifesaver.”
Once in the thicket, the separation of the operator from the machine gives a more comprehensive view of the work zone. This allows the operator to look ahead at what must be done and avoid obstacles.
“Having remote equipment is a fantastic help to the operator. It allows me to be able to walk around the equipment," said Becker. "I can stop it, check the front to make sure that there are no hazards or anything. Then I can just step aside, let it go do its thing. Otherwise, I’d be sitting in the cab, having to back out, shut down the machine, walk around it, then go back in. There's a lot of time saving ability.”
The removal of autumn olive is especially dangerous for operators. As the tree grows, old rotting branches are held up by newer growth. Becker and his crew are responsible for removing the core overgrowth. The deadweight of old growth has the potential to fall over and harm crews. Keeping a safe distance saves them from potential harm.
“I appreciate the automatic features on the machine, especially the reverse fan. Every seven minutes it reverses to auto clean the air system. That saves a lot of time, as compared to shutting down the equipment, cleaning up the screen, and then getting back on to work when we’re in these dirty environments.”
With a large crew of seasonal workers, the Green Climber can be considered an accessible machine for anyone employed at the National Park. All operators can learn how to use the machine in half a day’s shift and become masters at slope mowing by the end of the week.
“Another reason we're looking at trying to get the Green Climber is that no one in the crew needs a CDL to be able to transport the machine around and you don't need to have a special license to operate. The Green Climber has a simple diesel engine that our maintenance folks here in the park will most likely be able to repair. But then also, we can go down to the dealer if we need specialized help.”
With around 33,000 acres to maintain at Cuyahoga National Park, Thomas Becker and his team now have a piece of equipment that makes their job a little bit easier.
“The Green Climber was able to tackle slopes that we wouldn't even want to be hiking on," said Becker. "Without it, we would have to go uphill with chainsaws to clear out the invasives.”