BroomBusters efforts are paying off

An inspiring speech by a Qualicum Beach woman has Campbell River looking a lot more attractive these days

An inspiring speech by a Qualicum Beach woman has Campbell River looking a lot more attractive these days.

Joanne Sales, the founder of BroomBusters – a group organized in Qualicum Beach to completely eradicate the area of Scotch broom – inspired two local women to do the same here after a presentation to city council in 2013.

“Two years ago Joanne came to council and told us about her experience cutting Scotch broom in Qualicum and throughout that area and we were so impressed with what she achieved with such a small group that we wanted to work with her and we have, under her umbrella for the past two years, achieved a great deal,” said Morgan Ostler, who co-organized the Campbell River BroomBusters chapter with Carol Couture.

“Joanne gave us an inspiring address.”

The group has since been trying to tackle the spread of the prolific Scotch broom across the city.

Since 2013, when the group first began, volunteers have managed to clear broom from all four of the major entrances to the city, as well as spots in Campbellton and a section of Highway 28 (Gold River Highway) west of the Haig Brown House with the help of the Campbellton Neighbourhood Association.

Last year, the group also cleaned up the south end of the city.

“We cleared all of South Dogwood Street from the Beaver Lodge Lands down to the end where Dogwood meets Jubilee Parkway,” Ostler told council during a presentation at last week’s council meeting.

“With the assistance of the Timberline senior boys we cleared the east section of Jubilee Highway and a large section at the intersection of Dogwood and Jubilee when a large contingent of Rotarians turned out to help us remove tons of broom from that area.”

But despite all those efforts, BroomBusters volunteers would like to see more done.

Bev Agur, the BroomBusters coordinator in the Comox Valley, said the City of Courtenay has allowed her to put up large yellow signs on prominent city property reminding people to ‘Cut broom in bloom.’

Her efforts have attracted more than 200 volunteers.

Coun. Charlie Cornfield liked that idea and made a motion following Ostler and Sales’ presentation that city staff report back to council on ways the city can assist BroomBusters, whether it be through a bylaw, signage or other means.

That motion was unanimously approved by council.

Coun. Ron Kerr, who has participated in several broom cuts, said the BroomBusters are an example of what can be done when people put their minds to it.

“You’re totally inspiring,” Kerr said.

“I think to most of us it’s overwhelming to look at all that broom. I think the most common response is, ‘it’s too much, we can’t do anything about it, let’s just give up.’ But you haven’t given up and that impresses me. I’m getting really excited about getting out there and killing some broom.”

Scotch broom, an alien species which kills native plants, takes over vacant lots, is highly flammable and causes allergies, can only be effectively killed a few months out of the year.

“We found out that if you cut broom in bloom it will die,” Sales said. “If you pull it out or if you try to use an excavator, the seeds will re-sprout. Each plant can make 18,000 seeds and the seeds live in the soil for 40 to 50 years. But if you cut it and you leave a good grass cover the broom doesn’t come back. You have this window in the spring when it’s blooming and you just want to cut it.”

It’s believed that Scotch broom was first introduced to Vancouver Island in 1850 when travellers from Europe brought the plant to Sooke.

The plant, which spreads like wildfire, has made its way north and is prevalent along the Inland Island Highway.

It typically blooms near the end of April until the beginning of June and prevents forest re-growth and is toxic to grazing animals.

It spreads rapidly on trails, forest roads and under power lines, said Sales.

For more on Campbell River’s BroomBusters visit