Broom bashers looking for reinforcements in Highlands

Highlanders receive the call to arms for this weekend

Grab your pruners, dust off your gloves and get ready to work.

The Highlands Broom Bash goes this weekend (Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1) starting at 9 a.m. The Highlands District Community Association is partnering with The Land Conservancy and residents in honour of “de-broom week,” to help rid the area of those pesky yellow-blooming plants.

“If it’s not removed then we’ll lose part of our natural attraction,” said Bob McMinn, the first Highlands mayor and one of the event organizers. “Broom is a very invasive species that likes shallow soils.” It also shades and forces out native species and destroys the landscape, he added.

However, removing this invasive terror is no easy feat. With seeds that can survive in the soil for 20 to 40 years, McMinn said volunteers have to be careful when removing plants. “It’s a good thing not to disturb the ground.” If that happens, he said, any seeds present will immediately start to germinate.

While some small plants can be pulled from the ground without disturbing the soil too much, large plants should be cut just below the ground line and have soil pushed back over the remaining stem so it is no longer exposed to light.

While this weekend’s eradication efforts will focus on District parks, roadsides and other public places, McMinn said they’ll also do clearing along the power lines, but not as much as he’d like to see. “At some point I’d love to take the broom off the power lines; it remains a great reservoir of seeds.”

With more hands at this weekend’s event, that may be doable. While McMinn is encouraged by the number of residents who have already phoned to say they’re coming or will tackle a specific area, there’s always room for more volunteers.

For those interested in participating, meet at the new Community Hall (729 Finlayson Arm Rd.) to co-ordinate efforts. Come for one or both days and be ready to do some damage to this invasive species. Participants are asked to bring their own tools and gloves so donated items will go further.

McMinn noted The Home Depot donated six pairs of large pruners for volunteers to use, which will be put to good use as some stems can reach a diameter of roughly one inch.

Volunteers with pickup trucks are also encouraged to bring their wheels to help with transporting cut material back to the Community Hall, where it will be processed. Last year the collected broom was chipped to create 15 yards of organic material.

The chips will eventually be mixed with local manure, creating compost that will reach thermophilic temperatures, killing any remaining seeds. The mixture will then be saved for future community garden projects. “It’s being put to good purposes,” McMinn said.

Organizers are also encouraging residents to take a look at their own properties and do a little broom bashing at home. All of that cut material can also be brought to the Community Hall for chipping, or arrangements can be made to have it picked up curbside over the weekend or next week.

To arrange for pickup, call McMinn at 778-678-0805 on Saturday or Sunday, or at home (250-478-4403) for pickup the following week.

Organizers remind residents the Community Hall will not be open during the event, so there will be no washroom facilities available.

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