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2005 Ivy Olympics and open space fair

Reporter staff

Work teams, contests and information booths will highlight the first Ivy Olympics and Open Space Fair to celebrate ``National No Ivy Day'' on Saturday, May 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Island Park Elementary School, 5437 Island Crest Way.

Spectators can watch and cheer as environmental athletes wrestle with ivy vines and compete for prizes while helping to restore the S.E. 53rd Place open space. Sponsored by the City of Mercer Island, EarthCorps and Puget Sound Energy, the festivities will include ivy removal competitions, ivy vine crafting activities, and how-to displays for homeowners by local environmental groups and agencies.

Representatives from the Mercer Island Open Space Conservancy Trust, King County Noxious Weed Control Board, Washington Native Plant Society, EarthCorps, and Cascade Land Conservancy will be on hand at information booths to answer questions. Experts from these organizations will also participate in judging and refereeing the Ivy Olympics competition.

Prizes will be awarded to the individuals and teams that score the most points in all the competitions. Special prizes will be awarded for the largest ivy vine and the most imaginative ivy creation, as well as the team with the most members.

Mercer Island is surrounded with 301 acres of public open space, in addition to many private ravines and hillsides. These open spaces are being overrun by the rampant growth of non-native plants such as ivy, blackberry, holly and knotweed.

These invasive plants are a threat to the area's forests because they crowd out native plants. English ivy in particular kills trees by growing up them, adding weight, and stealing light and moisture, making trees susceptible to blowing over. English ivy also forms a dense carpet that covers the forest floor and prevents tree seedlings from sprouting. The City of Mercer Island has partnered with EarthCorps, a Seattle-based environmental restoration organization to work with Mercer Island volunteers in restoring the Island's forests. Puget Sound Energy is sponsoring this community-wide effort with a grant.

To register as an individual or a team -- or for more information, contact Paul West, Park Arborist at 236-3544 (office), 730-1518 (cell) or via e-mail at paul.west@ci.mercer-island.wa.us. Contestants must wear sturdy shoes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and layered clothing for inclement weather.

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