Coun. Ron Kerr and Joanne Sales of Broombusters Invasive Plant Species are busy cutting broom near the Welcome to Campbell River sign on the Inland Island Highway.

Campbell River eyes elimination of Scotch broom

The city is planning to mount an aggressive campaign against the invasive plant Scotch broom following an endorsement by city council

The city is planning to mount an aggressive campaign against the invasive plant Scotch broom following an endorsement by city council Tuesday.

Council directed city staff to prepare a policy for the eradication of broom from all city properties as a role model for the community and a policy to motivate property owners to remove broom from their own properties, whether residential or business. The goal is to completely eliminate broom from the city.

The issue was brought forward by Coun. Ron Kerr, who has roots in the landscaping business and is passionate about the fight against broom.

Coun. Claire Moglove tried to defer the issue to the city’s newly created Community Services, Recreation and Culture Commission but was met by opposition.

Kerr didn’t want to wait.

“I think we can proceed on this and be ready for May or June when the broom is in bloom,” Kerr said. “We have to act on it.”

Coun. Andy Adams agreed that by pushing it off to a commission that is yet to meet, it would be highly unlikely that the city would get to tackling the broom by the time it blooms – when it’s most effective to cut it down and ensure it won’t come back.

Coun. Larry Samson was worried about funding.

“My concern with referring it to the commission is the first thing they’re going to say is ‘is there any money for eradication?,’” Samson said. “We can do a policy but we have no money in the budget whatsoever for eradication of broom. If we’re going to deal with it, I think we have to deal with it at the staff level.”

This is the second time Scotch broom has been on the agenda at city hall.

Kerr first brought the issue of broom to council’s attention in June.

Joanne Sales of Broombusters Invasive Plant Species spoke to council about the dangers of broom.

“It crowds out native species until that’s all you have,” Sales said. “If we don’t get control over it, it will fill open spaces.”

Sales said Scotch broom was first introduced on Vancouver Island in 1850 when travellers from Europe brought the plant to Sooke.

The invasive species, which spreads like wildfire, has made its way north ever since. It blooms from the end of April to the beginning of June and slows and prevents forest re-growth.

Scotch broom is also highly flammable, a tripping hazard for hikers, bikers, and livestock, and it’s toxic – grazing animals cannot eat it. Its pollen can also make people sick.

The bright yellow flowers, which don’t appear harmful, can be found growing in clusters all along the Inland Island Highway and in vacant lots around Campbell River – most notably in the properties around Wal-Mart, the Home Deport and the Quinsam Hotel.

Sales said it’s important the community works to eliminate the plant.

“If we want our farms, if we want our forests, if we want our parks, it’s us that’s going to have to protect them,” Sales said. “We just can’t afford to lose this battle. When it gets into a clear-cut area it grows faster than the trees and it takes over.”

Sales, who helped start Broombusters in the Qualicum Beach area, said through community efforts Qualicum is now nearly broom-free.

Campbell River has done its part too in the eradication of invasive plants.

For the last 13 years the local environmental non-profit Greenways Land Trust has battled the weed through its annual Broom Bash. The Campbell River Indian Band, along with the city, recently removed “a great portion” of broom from the 9.5 acres around the Home Depot, and along Highway 19A.

City staff is expected to come back to council within the next month with a new policy on how to eliminate broom from the community.