As the weather heats up, it’s important to pay attention to weed growth that may lead to an increased fire risk. That’s one of the reasons cities like Cloverdale spend the beginning part of summer performing weed abatement on city-owned property.
“As a city we dedicate considerable resources to maintaining our facilities, our parks, our open space, our landscape areas, our public right of ways, which include things like our sidewalks and our streets, to ensure that they’re maintained well, they’re safe for the public,” City Manager David Kelley said of Cloverdale’s abatement efforts.
“We also want it to look good,” he added.
Hector Galvan, the city’s parks and landscaping lead worker, takes the lead when it comes to city vegetation maintenance. For him, one of the biggest changes and challenges he’s had to deal with this year is the city’s goal to minimize the spraying of harmful herbicides.
The city is trying to limit its use of glyphosate, Kelley said. Glyphosate is one of the ingredients commonly found in herbicide products such as Roundup.
“Unlike other cities our council has not yet implemented a ban, but we understand that there’s sensitivity around it,” Kelley said. “One thing that nobody argues about is that Glyphosate is very effective. But obviously there are all of the other concerns that go along with it.”
The city’s focus, Galvan said, is to follow an “integrative pest management policy.”
“Our pest management strategy is mainly focused on long-term prevention and suppression of weeds — our main goal is to minimize the herbicide spraying,” he said. “It’s fun and little by little we’re making progress.”
In order to minimize spraying Glyphosate, the city has started using two different kinds of organic herbicides, as well as increased manual weed suppression. With this being the first year of the switch to less invasive abatement measures, Galvan is still trying to build up an idea of how more organic methods will change the landscaping team’s schedule. So far, he’s found that the two organic herbicides require both more frequent application, and a larger volume of product.
“You have to perform more applications to kill the weed and you use larger mixing amounts,” Galvan said. “Instead of 3 ounces per gallon you have to use 17 ounces per gallon; it costs more, you use it more and you use more.”
Regardless of price and usage, he said the switch is going well.
An alternative to spraying weeds is manual abatement — something that Galvan said the city is trying to focus on. However, he said that when methods like weed pulling are used depends on the area that they’re working with.
“We try to come up with a good balance,” he said. “I’ve been working here for almost 11 years, so I know every area and every park pretty well to know what specific areas need. For example, at the airport — those types of projects would be better to hire a crew.”
This is specifically prevalent in areas like Cloverdale’s Porterfield Creek Open Space Preserve. At the open space, the city’s weed intervention efforts are minimal — they cut back weeds that may be a nuisance to those hiking on the trails, but try and limit intervention and promote natural growth.
Some city departments, like Cloverdale’s water treatment plant, have gotten creative with their weed abatement efforts. Since the folks at the treatment plant were specifically concerned with the possibility of spraying herbicides near the water tanks, they came up with their own form of abatement — a device that Kelley referred to as “a torch trailer.”
“The torch trailer has these torches that come out on a long line,” he said. “It burns the ground so that it kills the seeds in early spring. In areas where it’s conducive, they can hook it up to the truck and drive it around and it kills the seeds before they germinate.”
Kelley added that the crew doesn’t use the torch trailer in the hot summer months where it would pose a fire risk. Rather, they primarily use it in the spring to address weeds in flat areas that are well-watered.
The city’s initial weed abatement efforts are nearly done for the summer, Galvan said. They may, however, end up going back out and doing a second round of abatement because of the increased weed growth (which Galvan attributed to the high volume of rain earlier this year).