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Bamboo borders suggested

RVCOG proposes planting 40-foot-wide buffers between farms and new subdivisions

A government agency proposes planting swaths of bamboo to provide a buffer zone between agricultural fields and new housing developments.

Homeowners are upset about chemical spray and noise, and agriculture is upset about vandalism and trespassing, said Michael Cavallaro, executive director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

The idea is we're protecting both uses from each other, he said.

A 40-foot-thick border of bamboo, along with a six-foot fence and other underbrush, could act as a noise barrier and filter for dust and pesticide sprays.

— The barrier also would prevent trespassers and vandals who might enter from residential areas 'something that has plagued local farmers for years.

Trees and other vegetation are also being considered for the buffer, but Cavallaro said bamboo has one big advantage: It grows fast and it grows well in this area.

If enough bamboo is planted, it could spawn a cottage industry that would convert it into building materials.

There are a number of industries that could be supported by this, he said.

One drawback is the amount of water needed for bamboo, particularly as it gets established in an area. However, where the bamboo isn't watered, it won't grow, helping curtail its spread, he said.

Water is one issue that will have to be worked out, he said.

Cost for planting the bamboo would be borne by developers. Cavallaro said getting this project off the ground would require a lot of cooperation with government and private interests.

Robert McWilliam, owner of Bamboo Parc Nursery in Medford, said, As a barrier, it is a great thing, but it needs management, and the management would be part of a harvesting plan.

Convincing farmers that planting bamboo is a good thing might be a difficult sell, acknowledged McWilliam.

A lot of people have the theory once it's there, all is lost, he said.

However, some of the alternate borders have also proved messy. You could always plant brambles ' blackberries ' and that does take over, he said.

Bamboo, on the other hand, has a life cycle that varies from 20 to 100 years, when it flowers and then dies, he said.

During the planting, root barriers could be installed to prevent the spread of a plant that is essentially a gigantic version of common grass.

McWilliam said trees could be planted. But while they provide plenty of growth at the top, they leave none at the bottom, where it's needed.

The cost could be up to &

36;5,000 an acre, he estimated.

In addition, a fence and other underbrush would need to be installed, creating about a 75-foot wide buffer zone, he said.

Ken Beebe of Beebe Farms in Central Point agrees that agriculture needs protection.

We've got to do something about saving our soil quick or we won't have any left, he said.

But he discounts the idea of using bamboo. It would make a good case for a lawsuit, he said. Somebody will probably fall into it.

Over the years, Beebe's farm has been plagued by vandals who have knocked off the ripening fruit. Kids riding horses come through and tear up the trees, he said. When I hear motorcycles, I bristle.

At one time, Beebe hired armed guards for his crops, or stayed up during the night to keep an eye on the watermelon patch.

As to bamboo, he said, It's a noxious weed. The best thing is a high fence ' a cyclone fence.

Houses along Hillcrest Road crowd up to orchards. A border of bamboo between agricultural lands and new developments could act as a noise barrier, provide a filter for dust and pesticides and keep trespassers out of orchards, a government agency says. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven