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Weeders turn out to head off pesticide use

TALENT — Volunteers weed pullers showed up at Talent Skate Park, Saturday to continue a four-day effort to keep city crews from spraying pesticide at the site.

Parks Commissioners had approved a one-year trial of volunteer weeding at the site with no pesticide spraying, but in recent weeks weeds had sprouted profusely as warmer temperatures accelerated growth.

Commissioners voted Wednesday to allow one-time spraying, City Manager Tom Corrigan reported. But Elizabeth Zwick, who leads the volunteer effort and attended the meeting, organized a four-day effort that began Thursday and will continue through Sunday.

Zwick says she may have misunderstood the decision and thought that Tuesday was the day spraying would begin if weeding wasn’t accomplished. But Corrigan said there's no hard and fast deadline.

“We’ll meet with them and give them an assessment," he said. "It’s not like we will spray at 9:01 a.m. We’ll work with them. Weeding is a big priority.”

Nearly a dozen volunteers were at work by 10:45 a.m. Saturday. On Thursday eight volunteers put in 17 hours, while Friday 18 put in 32 hours.

“I’m determined,” said Zwick.

“What sort of thing would you like to work on? I’ve got lots of options,” she told a volunteer.

Zwick rated progress through Saturday morning as good and the volunteers said the effort was worth it.

“My children come to the skate park quite a bit. We live two minutes up the street,” said Sandra Duncan. “I don’t’ want my children to encounter pesticides.”

Richard and Rachel Whitley, who just moved to Talent a few months ago, tackled digging out grass around trees, one of the hardest tasks, according to Zwick.

“We like to walk the dog. We don’t want her running into pesticides,” said Rachel.

Underneath a sign that read “Weed to bare dirt along the slope,” Jamie Hickner of Talent weeded the bank between the skate bowl and John Street. Just two days earlier weeds a foot tall had covered the area. Saturday the majority was bare earth.

Mayor Darby Sticker said she planned to put in several hours Saturday.

“They needed to get in there and weed as to the original agreement,” said Stricker. “The Parks Commission made a recommendation that spraying may have to resume if the volunteer group is not on top of the weeding.”

Volunteer weeders in Talent work on school grounds and city property around the library and downtown civic center. City workers continue to explore alternatives, said Stricker.

Crews are testing a home-brew herbicide of apple cider vinegar, dish soap and salt, said Corrigan. In two week so far crews had noticed that the solution kills the top of the weeds but not the roots.

“If it is something that will work, we will keep trying it,” said Corrgian.

Organic chicken droppings are being used as fertilizer on city property due to their high nitrogen content, said Corrigan. The product appears to be working well, although there is a natural odor for a couple of days initially.

Work will continue Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Zwick can be reached at 541-499-2264.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.