Members of the Warren Conservation Commission and other volunteers are continuing the efforts to contain knotweed on the town’s road. In fact, volunteers are meeting today, August 6, near the top of Roxbury Mountain to dig out knotweed.
Last year the conservation commission worked on manual eradication on high elevation knotweed infestations that were critical for cutting down the spread of the invasive species, explained conservation commission chair Jito Coleman.
Coleman said a primary message that he and others want to get out there is the fact that it is possible to successfully battle knotweed.
“A lot of people get paralyzed by the thought of fighting it. I say, look around at all the places where there is no knotweed. Look where it’s not and fight it here,” he said.
Coleman said last year 100 different sites were cleaned multiple times and voters approved continuing that effort at Town Meeting this year right before COVID-19 hit and the town froze the budget.
“Now an intern and myself and various volunteers are doing one short stretch a week and we’re going after a smaller number of sites. We’re just ripping out the material and drying it onsite. Last year we were hauling to a compost site near the Sugarbush snowmaking pond but that was a lot of work involving loading a trailer, hauling and unloading. Now we dry on site,” Coleman said.
He and his fellow commissioners, contractors and volunteers started a knotweed lab last year to determine how best to kill the plant. They experimented with drying samples of knotweed for varying numbers of days and then replanting to see which ones lived. Included in the lab work were experiments by replanting different parts of the plants that they’d cut down as well.
‘Some of the root balls may take weeks to dry out, depending on how big they are. This is important for a number of reasons. There’s a fear that little stubs of the roots will infect everything. That fear is overblown. Our experience has not shown anywhere near that much resilience on the part of the plant. We’ve done a series of 100 shoots, roots and tops. We simply track them,” he said.
Coleman said that public education is starting to keep up with the issue of knotweed. He said that people are realizing that they need to get gravel, dirt and fill that is knotweed free.
“Most gravel pits in Vermont are contaminated as well as private and public pits,” Coleman said.
He said he met with a group of tri-town road crews this winter soliciting their help in slowing the spread of knotweed.
“They’ve never worried about it, when confronted with the problem, they don’t have an answer either. We’re trying to find a way to decontaminate the gravel. They need a large place to dry it out,” Coleman explained.
Knotweed is often spread during flood events and in the aftermath, such as during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
“Trucks take it up the hill and water takes it downhill. It only gets around by manual transport,” he added.