The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is stepping up its fight against invasive plant species.
On Sept. 20, the SCRD’s planning and development committee voted to form a regional invasive species committee that will work with existing groups on eradication efforts and raising public awareness.
Directors also approved staff recommendations to provide a training session on invasive species to parks and infrastructure crews and to explore the logistics of a community weed pull.
The measures came out of a community information meeting held last month at Chaster House. Attended by 32 people, the presentation by the Coastal Invasive Plant Council (CIPC) brought home the enormity of the problem, Gibsons alternative director Lee Ann Johnson told the committee.
“I was seriously shocked by the threat of knotweed,” Johnson said. “Public education has to be done in such a way that is consistent and ongoing.”
Speakers focused on knotweed, also known as ornamental bamboo, and giant hogweed as major invasives, Johnson said. While hogweed can cause severe blisters, scarring and blindness and can be a serious health hazard, especially for children, knotweed poses its own unique challenges, she said.
“Knotweed disposal can lead to more infestation — it’s a very difficult and threatening plant. We need to undertake more public education about the danger of knotweed because if you just pull it and remove it, it grows back. It’s a super monster plant,” Johnson said.
Pender Harbour director Frank Mauro expressed initial concern about creating a new committee, and suggested staff work with existing community groups instead.
But the idea of a Coast-wide committee caught on.
“I can see the benefits of having a committee to advance education [but] work bees have to be done in local areas,” said Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis.
“There would be an opportunity for the committee to help drive this thing with the locals,” added West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull.
One of the committee’s roles could be to help neighbourhood groups get started up, chair Donna Shugar (Roberts Creek) said.
“It would be good to have a Coast-focused group to help with coordination and education,” she concurred.
“I see value in some coordination through the SCRD,” Johnson said, “and not just focused on hogweed and knotweed, but all invasive species.”
Directors also expressed interest in the SCRD hosting a community weed pull event, but asked staff to report back with details on cost, disposal and how the event would be organized.
“There has to be some supervision of how this is done so we don’t make the problem worse,” Turnbull said.
Staff is also compiling an inventory of invasive plants and prioritizing control projects.
The province’s list of untreated sites in the SCRD as of December 2011 was topped by Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberry, hairy cat’s-ear, oxeye daisy, Japanese knotweed and English ivy.