Have you ever wondered if a person's individual effort ever really makes a difference? Or if anyone would ever notice that effort?

For Hilliard resident Cathy Levy, both questions are undeniably true.

Levy has been working on the Scioto Run Nature Trail since 2018 and has gathered multiple volunteers and local companies to help rid this 11.5-acre city park of its vast amounts of honeysuckle and garlic mustard.

These two invasive species are forcing native plant species out of the woodland, which limits native animals' food sources, limits the ability of humans to enjoy the beauty of natural species and disrupts the entire natural ecosystem. (An Eye on the Environment column detailed this effort last December.)

Levy's efforts have been recognized by Keep Ohio Beautiful, which honored her with its 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award. Levy and 51 volunteers in the "IBG – Invasives: Be Gone!" group have spent more than 730 hours cutting down honeysuckle bushes and pulling out garlic mustard weeds, collecting trash, repairing ruts and spreading mulch.

With an Earth Day donation from the city of Columbus, IBG also planted 367 seedlings and saplings of native trees and bushes to keep the invasives from reestablishing along the trail.

The city of Hilliard's Adopt-A-Park program has been very supportive in this effort, mulching the piles of honeysuckle debris and disposing of the collected trash.

Adopt-A-Park's goal is to have every city park "adopted" by persons or groups who wish to get involved and make a difference locally. Currently, 17 are adopted.

Keep Ohio Beautiful is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, which was formed in 1953 with the goals of ending littering, improving recycling and beautifying America's communities.

Keep Ohio Beautiful was certified as an affiliate in 1979, with the guiding principles of education, individual responsibility, public-private partnerships and volunteer action. Keep Ohio Beautiful has 38 affiliates in Ohio communities and another two that are undergoing a qualification process.

Hilliard became a KAB/KOB affiliate in the spring of 2018. Slightly more than one year later, we have a state-named Volunteer of the Year Award recipient.

There are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers across Ohio who recruit additional volunteers in the form of private citizens and businesses that endeavor to make our state litter-free, healthy and beautiful for us – and our future generations – to enjoy.

Levy continues to recruit volunteers for the IBG effort. Approximately two-thirds of the park still must be addressed, and she is determined to rid all of the Scioto Run Nature Trail of these invasive plant species.

She has had many co-volunteers, but there were multiple days when Levy was working by herself, cutting down honeysuckle.

So if you are interested in making a difference, learning about invasives and enjoying nature, swing by the nature trail and see what the efforts of a motivated individual can do.

Better yet, contact Adopt-A-Park supervisor Hayley Bush from the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department at hbush@hilliardohio.gov to find out scheduled times each week at the nature trail when you can make a difference, too.

Melissa Muth is a member of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.