The Broombusters Invasive Plant Society hopes to light a fire under potential allies and volunteers this season — by emphasizing the fire hazard posed by the unchecked growth of invasive Scotch broom.
“This is a new emphasis this year,” Joanne Sales of the broombusters told Parksville council while appearing as a delegation during its March 19 meeting. “Broom in power line rights-of-way or utility corridors is a fire hazard. And broom moves from there into a young forest and makes it hard for the forest to grow back.
“This is a concern to the forest industry and to any of us with just a love for the outdoors.”
The local broombusters chapter is expected to resume in April its 11th annual effort to snip off plants at ground level while they are in full bloom — when the plants’ roots are at their weakest and least likely to recover.
Sales provided a review of the group’s 2017 cut, which included removal of broom from the Highway 19A corridor along Resort Row; in the undeveloped land across from the Wembley Centre; along Martindale Road; in the Englishman River estuary; and along the entry road to Top Bridge Park, which was assisted by members of Arrowsmith Search and Rescue along steep banks.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how much (broom) is gone in those areas when it starts to bloom again,” said Sales.
Coun. Mary Beil asked if Sales or members of the broombusters had been in touch with Parksville parks foreman Warren Payne to determine preferred cutting sites for this spring.
“He did mention the wetlands, I believe it’s Ermineskin,” she said.
“He was looking forward to opening that up so we can get in and remove broom.”
“I think the term you’re looking for is the Parksville Wetlands,” Coun. Kim Burden replied. The 97-acre parkland on the west end of Parksville was purchased last fall from the Ermineskin Cree Nation and has been added to the city’s parks holdings.
Sales shared photos, many of them aerial images, of large swaths of broom in the area. She also showed photos of a demonstration burn of freshly cut broom pile by the Powell River Fire Department.
“Broom is a volatile flash fuel,” she said.
“It’s also a threat to biodiversity; this is not a cosmetic issue. We’re always looking for ideas to get new volunteers.”
Coun. Teresa Patterson asked whether Sales was requesting any funding from the city.
“Well, we did that last year when we asked for refreshments” for the 10th anniversary Parksville Broomfest, Sales said.
“We thought we’d let someone else have the money. As long as you can help in moving the (cut) broom, putting up signs, that kind of thing.”
To volunteer with the broombusters or for more info, visit online at www.broombusters.org/oceanside.