The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue recently helped out the local broombusters with a difficult cut underneath Top Bridge in Parksville. On the left is Nick Rivers cutting the broom and on the cliff’s edge is Christina Zanchetta, a member-in-training. — Photo submitted by Joanne Sales

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue drop in to help Parksville Broombusters

Broombusters’ 2017 season now over

Members of the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue recently came to the aid of local broombusters. And worked in a little rope training at the same time.

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue responded to a call from the local broombusters chapter to cut the Scotch broom that was spreading under Top Bridge in Parksville. The cliff under the bridge, which is steep, required the SAR’s rope rescue skills and techniques to safely cut the large invasive plants.

Joanne Sales, director of Broombusters Invasive Plant Society, said people had been complaining to her about the broom at Top Bridge, but the cliff was too dangerous for her volunteers to go near. Sales said she first talked to someone at the Regional District of Nanaimo who suggested getting in touch with the Arrowsmith SAR, since the group already holds practice sessions at Top Bridge.

Sales said when she reached out to the Arrowsmith SAR, she was told they had two new women learning rope rescue on May 30 and if the broombusters could make it out that day, the SAR would help with the cut.

The cut took place May 30 with six broombusters observing and cheering the SAR members as they descended the cliff to cut the broom.

Sales said a group of broombusters was there to give advice on cutting broom.

“They didn’t know much about cutting broom, and we didn’t have the ability to go off the side of the cliff,” she said.

Sales said the broombusters weren’t allowed to go anywhere near the edge of the cliff.

A rope descent requires a team of three, Sales said. Nick Rivers descended off the face of the cliff, while Christina Zanchetta, a member-in-training, was secured by safety lines at the cliff’s edge and Michael Addiscott served as the rope rescue team leader.

“We were so grateful for their help,” Sales said. “It was fascinating to watch the care and precision involved in their rope rescue techniques.”

Broombusters have now finished their season. In Parksville Qualicum Beach, Sales said, local volunteers cut broom for 325 hours in community cuts, and about 450 hours working alone or with partners. Sales said that while all of the community cuts are finished, members from the society still need to take the broom to get chipped.

“The people are doing it on their own,” Sales said. “As many people that registered and came to community cuts, did their own cuts. They’re adopting areas they care about.”

Sales said new areas for broom cuts this year were Bowser and around Horne Lake Road.

Sales said the society is hoping to designate Qualicum Beach as broom bloom free by the end of 2018 .

One of the group’s goals for next year, Sales said, is working on Highway 19. She said it would make a big difference when people come to the area and suddenly notice there isn’t any broom.

“We got a lot of broom cut,” Sales said. “We always wish we could do more, but Qualicum Beach is much closer to being broom-free.”