A volunteer group that has spent close to three years working to protect trees in Upper Arlington parks has changed its name and will expand its role this spring.

A volunteer group that has spent close to three years working to protect trees in Upper Arlington parks has changed its name and will expand its role this spring.

Since September 2012, the Weed Warriors have worked roughly one Saturday each month in Upper Arlington parks to eradicate invasive species, such as honeysuckle and buckthorn, that can steal nutrients from park trees and present other threats to trees.

While still dedicated to that cause, the group recently changed its name to Friends of Upper Arlington Parks, and it's also turning its attention to seeking grants to pay for new trees that members will plant in areas where invasive species have been cleared.

"It is more of a rebranding," said Annemarie Smith, coordinator for Friends of Upper Arlington Parks. "I changed the name because I didn't want there to be the perception that we're out there pulling dandelions.

"What we're doing is conservation, really, of those little slivers in our parks."

Buoyed by a Facebook page and a website at friendsofuaparks.com, the group maintains a core of about 20 members who work in the city's parks throughout the year.

Smith said there are close to another 45 people on an email list who turn out when they can.

In addition to volunteer efforts, the Friends of Upper Arlington Parks sometimes is assisted by the city's Forestry Division workers.

Last Saturday, volunteers were at Miller Park, where they removed honeysuckle and buckthorn, and then began work to replace those species with 100 bare-root whips that were purchased after Smith obtained a grant from the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District.

"I basically try to set dates at least a couple weeks in advance and we work on Saturday mornings," Smith said. "I think it's important because if we don't address this issue of invasive species in our parks, we won't have a healthy tree canopy.

"Part of what we do is raise awareness," she said. "A lot of time, we'll be out and working and people will ask us what we're doing. A lot of people don't know that some stuff is invasive and it's destructive."

"The Friends group has been of great value to the city and the before-and-after appearances of their work sites has been stunning," Upper Arlington Forestry Superintendent Steve Cothrel said. "The work they have done could never have been done by our limited staff.

"They began their work at a great time, because as the ash trees in our forests die, dense honeysuckle prevents any new trees from growing."

Smith said the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District grant also will pay for some trees to be planted in the wetlands area of Thompson Park. This past winter, about 130 trees infested by the emerald ash borer were cleared from the area.

Friends of Upper Arlington Parks will continue to seek grants to help plant trees in other parks throughout the city, Smith said, and the group is constantly seeking new volunteers. Those interested can find information on the group's website or by emailing Smith at smith.3746@osu.edu.

Even those who don't wish to join can help protect and enhance their local parks system, Smith said, by removing invasive plants from their own properties. She noted that birds often pass the seeds of invasive species from residential yards to parks.

"One thing I would really like to see is people remove those species from their landscapes," she said.