Native Plant Restoration at the S. Rim Visitor Center
By Allyson Mathis, Lori Makarick and Jan Busco
Preserving native vegetation is an integral part of the National Park Service’s mission at Grand Canyon National Park.
Every construction project in the park, such as the improvement in visitor facilities at Mather Point and the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, is designed to minimize impacts on the park’s plants and incorporates vegetation restoration work at its completion.
Each restoration project begins with a complete survey of the existing plant populations. Biologists from the park’s Division of Science and Resource Management identified trees, shrubs and grasses that could be salvaged to later be replanted at the end of the project.
More than one hundred large trees were saved prior to construction using heavy equipment to extricate them and by building boxes around their root balls. Most of these trees are stored on site, where they are cared for and monitored until it is time to replant them.
Once construction is completed and these trees are replanted, they will give the landscape a natural appearance and help speed the recovery of the surrounding vegetative community.
Crews, with the help of volunteers, collected seeds from 50 species of native plants and salvaged more than 5000 plants prior to the start of construction. Read more...
The park native plant nursery and the National Resource Conservation Service used these seeds to grow 23,000 trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses to be planted as part of the restoration of the site.
Using seed only from local plants maintains the genetic integrity of Grand Canyon’s plant populations.
The construction contractor also collected and stored more than 5,000 cubic yards of native topsoil before construction began because it contains a wealth of native seeds and soil microorganisms.
Spreading this soil in restoration areas will jump start the reestablishment of healthy soil and plant communities and speed the recovery process.
Controlling the spread of exotic plant species such as Russian thistle, Dalmatian toadflax and spotted knapweed is also part of all vegetation restoration projects.
Construction projects provide a great environment for these species to gain a foothold in the park because of their ability to aggressively invade disturbed areas.
Park staff and volunteers removed as many invasive plants as possible prior to and during construction in order to minimize the need for future control efforts.
Invasive plant control will continue after the construction is complete to ensure that native plant populations are established in restoration areas.
Major planting along roads, parking lots and foot paths in the Mather Point and Grand Canyon Visitor Center area should be finished by early December 2009. An additional phase of restoration work will begin in January 2010 with the removal of the parking lot at Mather Point.
When the project is completed, visitors will be able to experience native vegetation throughout the area. Vegetation program managers hope to replicate the success of the 2008 Hermit Road rehabilitation in which visitor facilities were greatly improved and the native vegetation was restored with more than 95% of plantings surviving.
How You Can Be Involved
The Grand Canyon National Park is looking for willing volunteers to assist in the vegetation restoration aspect of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center Improvements Project, as well as in other projects, including the recently rehabilitated Hermit Road and Desert View entrance station.
Last updated: April 30, 2023