Celebrate 10 years of the battle of the broom

Community cuts are kicking off across the Island, with one in Qualicum Beach on May 7 and Parksville on May 14

Volunteer Broombusters near Parksville last year

The annual Scotch broom cuts begin next month as the locally founded Broombusters celebrates 10 years.

“Ten years ago this May, a small group of us started talking at Errington Market about how broom was spreading everywhere,” said founder Joanne Sales.

She said people assumed someone was doing something about it but nobody was, though since then it has become clear that a lot of people wanted to do something about it.

The group was originally centred around Qualicum Beach, and they have been successful enough that the town now has a goal of being totally broom-bloom free in two years.

“Qualicum Beach was the first municipality to eagerly say ‘yes’, Sales said. “That was the beginning of Broombusters, since that time ten other municipalities have adopted the strategy and are working with their own local teams of Broombusters.”

“Huge broom used to line the streets of Qualicum Beach,” she said. “We have done what they said could not be done. The broom is almost gone.”

“There is a myth that you can’t stop the spread of broom,” Sales said. “We have proven that we can stop the spread. Not with expensive machinery or high expense, but with volunteers cutting broom in bloom. Scotch broom is not naturalized, it’s a bully plant that won’t stop until it takes over every field, road, farm and park.”

She said that in 2015 alone, 650 volunteers recorded over 3,400 hours of broom cutting in 98 group cuts in Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, North Cowichan, Highlands (near Victoria) and all over the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. Volunteers in Duncan and Ladysmith are joining the growing effort this year.

“So much has been accomplished, and so much needs to be done. It is especially important to keep broom out of our wild areas, especially where the forest has been cut, as broom prevents forests from regrowing. To do that, we need to get broom off the roads,” Sales said.

“Humans brought it here, we need to control it. It’s a global problem,” she said of the plant that started in Scotland and is now common in Australia, New Zealand, South America and the Mediterranean.

As the group begins its 11th season Sales calls on everyone to contribute even just a couple hours a year, warning that “It is addicting and fun.”

People can join organized cuts or contact Sales to organize your own cut. “The Ministry of Transportation insists that we tell them ahead of time where we will be cutting and arrange for removal,” she said, asking people to e-mail her (info@broombuters.org) to make arrangements. She can also provide expertise and tools.

Sales is also surveying volunteers about the best times and locations to attract the most volunteers to community cuts.

While there will be cuts all over, she hopes to focus on completely clearing Errington Road this year, and they are looking for extra help in French Creek, Coombs, north of Qualicum Beach, Bowser and Nanaimo.

Organized Broombuster cuts start April 24, with two big ones scheduled to celebrate the anniversary May 7 in Qualicum Beach and May 14 in Parksville.

Both running 10 a.m. to

12:30 p.m. on consecutive Saturdays, the first will be BroomFest at the power lines on Memorial Road in Qualicum Beach, where there will be local musicians playing, including Celtic music and Kwalikum Secondary’s jazz band. There will be prizes from local businesses including dinners and kayak rentals.

On May 14, “the Parksville mayor and council will be out in force to rid Parksville of broom by leading the cut,” Sales said. The cut will start at the Alberni Highway highway entrance to Parksville, near the train station.

Everyone is invited, no experience necessary, tools are provided, but bringing gloves is helpful.

Contact Sales at 250-752-4816, info@broombuters.org or check www.broombusters.org.

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