City eyes public education campaign for local noxious weed

By Tyler Marr
May 15, 2018 - 2:00pm Updated: May 15, 2018 - 11:56pm

It is not the weed everyone is talking about, but Prince Albert City Hall is looking to change that.

The city is eyeing a public education campaign to help battle an invasive species growing out of control inside the city. It will look to plant the seed in the minds of residents about the devastating nature of the probelm.

Himalayan Balsam, a rapidly growing annual that was brought to North America from the Himalayan mountain range as a garden ornamental, has been under the microscope for some time. Many features make this plant a successful invader, most notably its reproductive qualities. Thick stands give the plant the ability to produce nearly 30,000 seeds per square meter. The plant also has a lack of natural predators and an uncanny ability to survive the winter. 

The public education camping stems in part from a research project undertook by two students at Saskatchewan Polytechnic to devise an optimal means of eradication. Cole Tomlinson and Jeremy Toon spoke to city council on April 9 and said their research yielded estimates of roughly 400,000 plants in a small chunk of land in the East end of the city. The two outlined three means of removal at the time; mechanical, biological and chemical. Each has pros and cons, dependant on location. 

According to Parks Manager Timothy Yeaman, the city started chemical control of the weeds last Thursday in areas with the highest concentrations that are not near water sources. Areas within a drainage ditch, with accounts for around 50 per cent of the total population, will go through a controlled burn over the coming days, he said. This should also help reduce the potential of a fuel source for grass fires.

“We believe the best source of prevention at this time is communication and education,” Yeaman told council Monday. “Himalayan Balsam will be our city’s main focus but there are other invasive plants in the city.”

Yeaman suggested the city engage directly with growers and vendors and work to build local partnerships for better awareness. He said using social media, declaring a Himalayan Balsam awareness day, and using public service announcements and brochures that outline the detriment on the local environment could help prevent further sales and spread.

“If we can get the brochure into [homeowners] hands and start an education campaign this may be enough to engage the community and get them interested in being that watchful eye, and encourage them to volunteer in the removal of the plant,” a report on the matter read.

Yeaman did not recommend enacting a bylaw as it could be difficult to enforce. Policing the sale and purchase of an invasive species may prove difficult, he said, as not everyone purchases their plant material here in Prince Albert. Last year, the city banned the sale of the plant and continues to pressure the provincial government to classify it as a noxious weed.

Council unanimously agreed to pursue the options presented, though the idea will still need formal approval at a city council meeting.

 

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