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Take up arms in the war on weeds

You can’t see the forest for the trees – and at Blakely Harbor Park, you can’t see the trees for the ivy. - Douglas Crist/Staff Photo
You can’t see the forest for the trees – and at Blakely Harbor Park, you can’t see the trees for the ivy.
— image credit: Douglas Crist/Staff Photo

Clippers and saws are the weapons against noxious creepers on Earth Day Saturday.

Jeannette Franks is deputizing any and all able-bodied citizens willing to take on the island’s “most wanted” weeds during an Earth Day roundup at Pritchard Park.

“I want them dead or controlled,” she said, listing off the island’s worst offenders: English ivy, Scotch broom, tansy ragwort, holly and knotweed.

These plants, Franks said, are guilty of overwhelming native plants, altering forests, hastening the erosion of steep slopes and replacing wildlife habitat.

Eradicating noxious plants with Franks and the Bainbridge Island Weed Warriors group she established in 2004 is one of the more hands-on ways to celebrate Earth Day.

Other activities around the island include a sustainable design forum, native plant sales, trail building and a film festival.

Established in 1962, Earth Day has become an unofficial national holiday for celebrating the planet’s bounty and rallying for the environmental challenges that lay ahead. Franks advocates a one-weed-at-a-time approach to solving the planet’s problems.

“That’s the ethos I want to express,” she said. “Just putting in a couple of hours at the Grand Forest, at a public road end, a neighborhood park. You can accomplish so much in two hours, compared to what you gain from watching two hours of TV.”

Pritchard Park on Eagle Harbor’s south shore, recently transferred into public hands, is in serious need of a good weeding, Frank said.

While the park suffers from out-breaks from nearly all the worst offenders, English ivy in particular is creating “green deserts” in the park, she said.

English ivy was brought to North America by “homesick” Brits who missed the familiar blankets of leaves and creeping vines. While more than 400 varieties of ivy are used for landscaping, only a few are considered invasive. The heartier Old Country specimens found the milder climates in America to their liking. The vine quickly swallowed new territory by the acre with the aid of birds who favor mature ivy’s seed-filled berries.

Dense mats

In the Northwest, dense mats of ivy cover forest floors, displacing native plants and hampering the growth of tree seedlings.

Ivy’s tendency to climb mature trees blocks sunlight, encourages rot and can constrict a tree’s growth.

Franks has also noticed a form of clematis, commonly referred to as Old Man’s Beard, taking root in the park.

Also a climbing vine, Old Man’s Beard crawls up trees where it can catch wind and topple its host.

“It acts like a sail,” Franks said. “If there’s a stiff gust of wind, it can take down a tree because it just forms this shroud over everything.”

Despite the tough fight these invasives put up, Franks said the most ornery weed of all is not even a weed.

“It’s ignorance,” she said. “When we first started our weed pulls two years ago, people were indignant. They’d say, ‘Oh, but ivy is so pretty.’ Or people would just say ‘You can’t get rid of it. Get over it.’”

But people are starting to come around, she said.

More gardeners are foregoing the ornamental invasives in favor of native plants or less-aggressive specimens. More groups and local governments are sponsoring weed pulls, which sometimes lead to stunning victories against the foreign invaders.

“Look at the Grand Forest,” she said. “Ivy has literally been removed from there. It’s amazing. Now we should do that for Pritchard Park and restore it to its natural state.”

The weed pull at Pritchard Park will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday and run until 3 p.m. Free Earth Day T-shirts will be awarded to the first weed pullers to arrive. The Bainbridge Island Weed Warriors will provide free training in plant identification and weed removal techniques.

Back and Beyond will provide free canoe rides from the city dock at Waterfront Park to Pritchard Park starting at 9:30 a.m.

Volunteers are asked to bring pruners, small saws, gloves and a lunch and to wear sturdy shoes. Parking is provided on Bill Point, east of the park.

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Earth Day events

FRIDAY: Senior Potluck: The Bainbridge Island Senior Center on Brien Drive will host an Earth Day potluck lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Lorax at KiDiMU: The Kids Discovery Museum on Madison Avenue will host various children’s activities, including a hands-on event called “The Tale of the Lifted Lorax” from 1 to 3 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Sierra Club, costs $5.

Planet Films: The Conscientious Projector will kick off a film festival titled “Films of Hope for the People and the Planet.” The festival begins at 7 p.m. at the high school’s LGI Room.

SATURDAY: KiDiMU Kick-off: The Kids Discovery Museum will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a day’s worth of activities at 10 a.m.

Eco Design: IslandWood on Blakely Avenue will host a sustainable design forum exploring “the science behind design for the environmental learning center.” The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 855-4300 for registration information.

Bay Hay Plant Sale: The Bay Hay and Feed store will sell native plants from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is a fundraiser, with 30 percent of the proceeds awarded to the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.

Helpline Plant Sale: The staff and volunteers of the Helpline House on Knechtel Way will host a native plant sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will also feature garden arts, a food drive, tours of the food bank and a discussion with gardening expert Ann Lovejoy, which begins at noon.

T&C Fair: Town & Country Market will host its 7th annual Earth Day Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will feature kids activities and a salmon BBQ.

Gazzam Weed Pull: The Bainbridge park district will lead volunteers in the removal of Scotch broom and the planting of trees at Gazzam Lake Park. The event begins at 10 a.m. at the meadow north of the water tower.

Pritchard Park Clean-up: See story.

Grand Forest Trails: The Bainbridge park district will lead trail building at Mandus Olson Road starting at 10 a.m.

SUNDAY: Earth Talk: Island author David Korten will discuss his new book “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community” at the Playhouse from 7 to 9 p.m.

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