Volunteers Remove Invasive Species at Curtis Mill Site in Newark, DE.

 NEWARK — Volunteers helped clear invasive vines and other plants from around White Clay Creek at the site of a future city park Saturday.

“We’re removing some of the invasive plants so the native plants have a chance to come back,” said April Schmitt, a member of the Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve and Wilmington Trail Club.

Schmitt and members of Boy Scout Troop 255 of Newark worked on the project, along with Newark city workers.

The city is planning a public park at the site of the old Curtis Paper Mill, an area with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

The first paper mill there opened in 1798, according to the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record.

In 1848, brothers George B. Curtis and Solomon Minot Curtis bought it and called it “Nonantum Mill,” from the American Indian name of the Massachusetts area where their family made paper. In 1926, the family sold the mill to outside stockholders, who renamed it Curtis Paper Co.

The mill closed in 1975. The city bought it in 1999 and razed everything but the smokestack in 2008. Restoring the smokestack was found to be too expensive, so it, too, was torn down.

Schmitt said the area was choked with multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle and other invasive species.

“The beauty of a forest is to see a diversity of plants,” Schmitt said. “When some of the ones come in from overseas, they don’t have any competitors here, so they just grow and grow and grow, and then they shade out everything else. So you can look in areas and see nothing but three plants, instead of seeing 25.”

Clearing them out helps restore biological diversity to the area, she said.

“The amount of native plants that come back is just astounding,” Schmitt said.

Contact Mike Chalmers at 324-2790 ormchalmers@delawareonline.com. Subscribe at facebook.com/MTChalmers or follow on Twitter at @MTChalmers.