On Sunday, more than 140 members of the World Mission Society Church of God in Ridgewood, NJ assisted their neighbors in the township of Riverdale in the Appelt Park Japanese Knotweed Removal project, volunteering their time to uproot the invasive Japanese knotweed from the banks of the Pequannock River. This project aligns with the World Mission Society Church of God’s global efforts to restore the planet’s natural environment. After the removal of the invasive weeds, native trees and shrubs will be planted, allowing native flora to thrive.

Japanese knotweed, known as one of the world’s top 100 most invasive species, flourishes in thick colonies under a wide range of environmental conditions. It chokes out native plants, disrupts the ecosystem, damages structures and even reduces natural flood defenses. The dense mass of roots and bamboo-like stalks, capable of reaching over 12-feet high, make the Japanese knotweed especially difficult to remove.

Executive board members of the Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) normally recruit small volunteer groups to undertake the immense task of uprooting the weeds multiple times a year for Appelt Park knotweed removal projects. However, when the Church of God members arrived, Barbara Kushner, wife of Ross Kushner, Executive Director of the PRC, exclaimed, “I was told 100 people were coming [to volunteer]. I didn’t think that was possible, but here you all are!”

In unity, Church of God volunteers used pitchforks and shovels to dig up the stubborn growths under the sweltering heat and threat of poison ivy. Regardless of the circumstances, the volunteers were full of enthusiasm while pulling up the weeds, knowing their efforts would produce of positive impact on the environment. Church of God members completed “double the work in half the time,” as expressed by Laurence Bair, Chief Executive of the PRC. In an interview with NorthJersey.com, Ross Kushner shared, “The results speak for themselves. Most of the park is now free of knotweed. These folks deserve a big round of applause.”