Weed whackers launch campaign against chemicals | SteamboatToday.com

Weed whackers launch campaign against chemicals

Linda Lewis, left, and Peggy Weaver remove weeds from a section of the Lower Spring Creek Trail on Tuesday morning. The women are removing weeds by hand so that the city of Steamboat Springs does not have to spray chemicals to remove them.
Scott Franz

— Linda Lewis and Peggy Weaver are bringing an end to some of the chemical warfare in Steamboat Springs.

Tired of seeing chemical herbicides being sprayed on noxious weeds along some of their favorite trails, the women have started a grassroots effort to remove the weeds by hand.

On Tuesday, they set out with shovels and Munchkin the dog in tow to eradicate some Hounds Tongue on the Lower Spring Creek Trail.

After 10 minutes of work, the women had a large bag of noxious weeds to haul off from the trail.

“It’s so simple, and we can stop using the poisons,” Weaver said.

Weaver and Lewis hope their efforts grow more roots.

The more volunteers they can round up, the more places they will be able to remove weeds by hand and prevent from being sprayed by herbicides.

The volunteers, who see the chemical spraying as a health hazard, have received the blessing of the city of Steamboat Springs to work along the Spring Creek and Sanctuary trails.

Their efforts come months after they received 600 to 700 signatures on a petition aiming to stop the herbicide spraying.

“It’s great to see people who are passionate about this, volunteering their time to maintaining these public areas and educating people about the problem,” city parks, open space and trails manager Craig Robinson said.

Lewis and Weaver were motivated to start their own weed-killing efforts after a season of weed spraying in the city that the women felt was excessive.

The city went above and beyond its normal application of herbicide last year on Emerald Mountain after it received grant funding for the job.

The herbicide was applied to 27 miles of single-track trails.

Brad Setter, the city’s Howelsen Hill complex supervisor, said the ramped-up spraying program resulted in pushback from some members of the community.

Lewis met with city staff to discuss ways the city could reduce the spraying.

Setter said, as a result of the meeting, the city has been testing out some natural weed killers that are more expensive.

The city also has provided a map of areas with weeds and told the volunteers they will stop spraying on trails where they can remove weeds by hand.

“I think it’s a great partnership,” Setter said.

Lewis and Weaver, who have known each other since Weaver started selling organic peaches out of a truck on Yampa Street in 1980, believe herbicides pose risks to the public and dogs, especially people with sensitive allergies or respiratory problems.

Environmental groups also have claimed 2, 4-D, the type of herbicide used by Steamboat and many other cities across the country, are potentially harmful to human health.

The World Health Organization last year listed the herbicide as potentially carcinogenic.

Makers of the herbicide disputed the findings and said studies supported by governments had found the herbicide is not harmful to human health.

City officials say they follow a thorough process to ensure the spraying is safe.

Regardless of the debate about the safety of the chemical, Lewis and Weaver see tackling weeds by hand as a more natural and less impactful approach.

Weaver has even donated natural weed killing solutions to the city for use.

“We’d like to work with nature instead of against nature,” Weaver said.

Robinson said while the application of herbicide is effective, there are some advantages to pulling certain types of noxious weeds on area trails and parks. With some types of weeds, the removal of the roots results in a more permanent eradication.

The women are looking for more volunteers to help remove weeds.

To volunteer or learn more, contact them at happyhealthytrails@gmail.com.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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