Parksville steps up to bust

Broom busting challenge met, says organizer Joanne Sales

A strong contingent from Parksville cut a small mountain of broom at the weigh station on Saturday.

A strong contingent from Parksville cut a small mountain of broom at the weigh station on Saturday.

As the head of the Broombusters team that has  battled Qualicum Beach broom to the mat, Joanne Sales was surprised to have Parksville run away with the inaugural Golden Loppers award.

That’s what happened though when the Broombusters and The News organized a community broom cutting contest on the long weekend.

To say Sales is disappointed would be a mistake, however.

“We had 16 people show up and some of them even stayed for an extra hour. Two cut broom for an extra hour,” a delighted Sales said. “There was one person from Qualicum Bay, a couple from Coombs, a couple from Qualicum Beach and the rest were from Parksville. There haven’t been volunteers from Parksville before, but now it feels like Parksville is fully engaged.”

Sales said the team was able to clear 90 per cent of the broom from one hill and the whole side of a hill at the Parksville interchange by the weigh scales during the campaign.

Although she conceded the cut only amounted to a nibble at the sea of yellow broom that is choking Vancouver Island’s highways and byways, she said the key is to accentuate the positive.

“You have to look at what’s being saved, rather than what’s being lost to broom and look at what else we can rescue,” she said.

Qualicum Beach, she added, stands as an example of what can be done by committed community volunteers.

“Qualicum Beach had tons of broom in 2006,” she said. “We had to cut it with a chainsaw and now there’s not enough broom to have a community cut. That’s our goal for Parksville.”

This year’s inaugural competition also drew some business support. Besides The News, Jim’s Gym got on board, offering free gym passes to volunteers and Parksville Physiotherapy, besides cutting broom themselves, offered some free sore muscle ointment.

Sales said the prizes will be awarded at this Saturday’s cut, slated to run from 10 a.m. to noon at the Parksville Visitor Centre.

With the success of this year’s competition — which was organized at the last minute — Sales sees the opportunity to grow the event into something much bigger next spring. It could, she said, be a festival where not only do people have a good time, but also accomplish something at the same time.

“I can’t see it getting as big as Family Day, but Broom Days could be more of an event next year,” she said. “There  could be an educational component, where the hogweed people come in to show what it is and what to do about it, and a section where the kids could come and cut under supervision.”

And while it’s likely any such event would take place in Parksville — where the broom is at its worst — she  is confident the Parksville contingent won’t be able to walk away with the Golden Loppers quite so easily in future.