Self-Directed Volunteers Are Needed To Remove Invasive Plants From Stanley Park
Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, has most all the normal park amenities. But I love the large areas of relatively untouched western forests. The ever-changing seasons, plants and animals distract your mind from normal city-life worries. There is a set of regular users you soon recognize. The cool of its shade provides relief from summer heat. The gravel paths are soft on your joints. There are challenging hills to make you sweat and easy routes down. The trail system is so extensive that you can run for an hour without repeating any sections.
The 'wild-west park' I talk about in the rest of this website covers the area between the causeway and trail just inside the ring-road. Coloured orange in the map above. This is the area of western forest that is possible to clear of invasive. Although the wild sections of Stanley Park cannot be called pristine wilderness, they are very representative of western forests. They are as close to 'nature' as many park visitors will regularly get. This 'natural' habitat has been degraded by invasive plants.
Self-directed volunteers are needed to do the hard physical work of removing the invasive plants ... and the easy upkeep in subsequent years. My fingers have become chronically sprained and others must continue my work. There is no organized group whose objective is the effective clearing of invasives. Officially, SPES organizes outing, and there is no doubt that their volunteers wish to accomplish clearing. But SPES has sacrificed 'effectiveness' for 'social' and 'educational' benefits. DIY if you want to accomplish any clearing. You must be responsible for your own safety. Know the plants to be removed. Respect and protect the other bio-diversity. The following pages tell you everything I have learned about 'how-to' over the past decade.
- Long pants and sleeves. Boots or shoes with high ankles are better than low shoes for scrambling over slash.
- Gardening gloves with strong rubber palms for gripping and pulling are essential
- Safety glasses are essential for working with Blackberry's thorns. They are strongly suggested when pulling English Ivy because when the roots release, earth will fly up into your eyes. They are not really necessary when working with Yellow Lamium, Periwinkle or English Laurel.
- X-large heavy-duty garbage bags to hold your English Ivy plant pullings until you dump them at your compost pile. It is the small pieces left behind that will cause regrowth. Any size or type of bag is adequate for removal of Lamium and Periwinkle.
- English Ivy removal requires tools ... (i) Some stick, like the handle from an old pot with a hole in the end for a tether. Once you put it down it will be lost. Use it to free the soil around deep roots that don't pull up easily. (ii) A knife for cutting off tap-roots that cannot be pulled. I use a cheap Swiss Army knife that I don't mind getting rusty.
- Blackberry removal requires tools ... (i) A hand cultivator - either 2 pronged or 3 pronged - to loosen and move aside the soil around the roots. (ii) A keyhole saw to poke into the soil and cut through any root that cannot be pulled up.
- Bend two pieces of cardboard and stuff them inside your socks, under your pants, to protect your shins in rough terrain.
- Working in the woods exposes you to ticks, so put DEET on exposed skin, anchor your sleeves and pants into gloves and socks, and cover your head. I am not aware of any tick bites having been reported in Stanley Park, but you don't want to be the first.
- Stretch before pulling. And don't work more than three hours. This can be hard work.
- When moving through the woods keep aware of both long and short distances --- of the twigs two inches away from poking your eye, while looking for the tree ivy far into the woods.
- You WILL fall back, hard, on your bum when Ivy roots suddenly release. Be aware of what is behind you. Angle away from hard rocks and pointy sticks.
- Don't travel through the brush holding pointy tools in your hands. You will trip. Keep tools attached to a belt, pointing away from your body.
Historically the relationship between volunteers and union employees was not discussed or clarified. The only document was an October 1998 "Volunteer Policy of Vancouver Parks Board". In 2018 there was another attempt to define a severely limited role for what they now call Park Stewards. During the a Parks Board Meeting of May 14, 2018 starting at minute 29 there was some added details.
- Management feels they need the Union's permission before allowing volunteer work.
- The frequency of volunteer work is a material factor for that permission.
- Volunteer work cannot take away union work.
- Since none of the union staff in Stanley Park are tasked with clearing invasives, they don't complain.
- The union feels they should have paid staff working alongside volunteers.
A major problem with the union's stance is that when I wanted to donate cash to pay full union wages and benefits for clearing a specific area of English Ivy, neither Parks nor the union wanted any part of the idea. I don't believe they have any desire to add the hard work of clearing invasives to any job's description.
City Policy and Plans
- Original Proposed Stanley Park Restoration Plan. ( page 41 for ongoing invasives funding)
- Stanley Park Restoration Plan 2007 progress report - pdf pages 15 and 19.
- Stanley Park Restoration Fund : donations of cash and trees , and how the cash was spent
- Stanley Park Forest Management Plan, page 21 per Board meeting Mch 23, 2009
- Stanley Park Forest Management Plan Appendix: Invasives page 39 - information duplicates from a multitude of internet sites all repeating each other.
- 2011 Stanley Park Ecological Action Plan - pdf page 8
- 2011 Invasive Plant Mapping Update per the Action Plan.
- 2014 Environmental, Education and Stewardship Action Plan promises all kinds of collaboration, communication, sharing, support, etc, etc --- that the last 9 years have proven over and over to be nothing but hot air.
- Job Vacancy Posting for the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver. Pays $18/hr. ISCMV has been hired to apply chemicals on Knotweed twice yearly, ongoing, without success, and they do no physical work like simply digging up the roots.
- King County USA paper on Knotweed. The most 'expert' source I have found.