Man volunteers to pull buckthorn out of Lake Harriet

Jim Nicholas volunteers to remove buckthorn from the Lake Harriet area.

On the shores of Lake Harriet, a battle is brewing.

Over the past few months, Jim Nicholas has waged war on a weed. Armed with his iconic soft hat, yellow gloves, and red suspenders, Nicholas spends his time pulling, cutting and digging up the buckthorn groves found throughout the walk.

“I can’t say it’s fun. It’s just satisfying to make a difference,” he said.

Nicholas began to notice that invasive species became a thorn in Mother Nature’s side when he commuted to and from work on his bike.

“It shades the natural habitat … once the sunlight is cut off, native plants don’t stand a chance,” he explained.

So when Nicholas retired from his office job in St. Paul after 27 years, he decided to become a buckthorn hunter.

“I can set my own schedule. I’m outside, and every once in a while I see an eagle.”

Nicholas says passers-by often stop and ask him what he’s doing, but a few have actually called the cops on him.

“They see me pulling trees down, and they don’t think I belong there.”

But, Nicholas has no plans to give up his post anytime soon.

“I’ll go as long as my back allows, I think.


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