Mysa School students pitch in to manage knotweed

The stewardMRV program founded by the Mad River Chamber of Commerce kicked off its summer on Saturday, June 4, as part of National Trails Day. According to a press release, “Throughout the Mad River Valley, people gathered to clean public spaces, perform trail maintenance and remove invasive species that threaten the local ecology of our valley,” including Japanese knotweed, which can be found all along the Mad River. Sixteen community members, including Mysa School faculty, students, and parents, gathered at the Lareau swim hole along with Waitsfield Conservation Commission members to learn about how knotweed is changing the landscape along riverbanks and roadways, said Mysa School’s Kathy Haskell.


“The efforts to contain Japanese knotweed are primarily the result of the Waitsfield Conservation Commission’s Bob Cook and Curt Lindberg,” she wrote in an email. “Both have been working to educate and engage the public by posting signs identifying Japanese knotweed and organizing volunteer events like the weekly ‘knot Thursday’ plant removal in Waitsfield.”

"It's been gratifying to see the enthusiastic response to the town's invitation to tackle Japanese knotweed as a community endeavor and all the creative ideas that have emerged from that volunteering,'' Waitsfield Conservation Commission chair Curt Lindberg said. “Two of our favorite tagline ideas have come from Mysa students: to invite their parents to volunteer with them and the name they've given themselves -- Knot Kids."

“Participants in Saturday’s effort learned about the spread and containment of this prolific plant,” Haskell wrote. “Cook and Lindberg started the morning with a competition to see who could find the longest rhizome, or root structure, as a way to highlight the efficiency of Japanese knotweed. And although volunteers quickly dispersed with tools to begin the removal and destruction process, the real goal was to create a lasting sense of stewardship.” 

Mysa students Preslee and Steele Mazer worked alongside their mother cutting stalks and dragging the plants to dry on wood pallets. “This plant is an invasive species. It comes from Asia. Someone thought it was pretty and sold it at plant stores and people grew it in their backyard,” said Preslee Mazer, age 9. Steele Mazer, age 11, added, “We care about the knotweed because we need to keep it contained. We need to control it because it is taking over native plants, beetles, caterpillars, fish and if the native plants are gone, then the native species can’t be here.” 

Five UVM interns are assisting the Waitsfield and Warren conservation commissions this summer to eradicate knotweed throughout The Valley.

This week’s knotweed Thursday will take place at Bridge Street in Waitsfield from 4 to 7 p.m. Participants are invited to come out for as long as they would like. “The area is looking so much better already, Lindberg said. “We're having an impact.”