Falmouth spends less than planned to stem invasive plants

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FALMOUTH — The Conservation Commission says its pilot program to combat invasive plants has been successful and it hopes to build on the success.

The plan, which was allotted $15,000 in the municipal budget to expand eradication efforts and increase educational and outreach efforts, came in “a few thousand” dollars under budget, according to commission member Nancy Lightbody. She said the time needed was not as long as the commission had anticipated.

The extra money will return to the town’s general fund, according to Lightbody and Town Manager Nathan Poore.

Lightbody said the eradication effort took place during the week of Sept. 21, which she said was a “prime time to treat invasives.” Several species, including Japanese knotweed, had flowered but not yet formed seeds, she said.

“We killed thousands of invasive plants,” Lightbody said.

Other plants targeted were multi-floral rose, Japanese honeysuckle and bittersweet.

She said the eradication effort was necessary because invasive plant species “crowd out native plants, they threaten biodiversity, they out-compete native species and destroy nesting opportunities for birds.”

The work took place on town-owned property in parts of West Falmouth, including the Hardy Road Conservation Area, the transfer station on Woods Road, and Falmouth Community Park. Lightbody said some these areas had “very extensive infestations from knotweed.”

The work was done by Vegetation Control Services, a Massachusetts-based contractor. Lightbody said the town had never attempted such a roadside project before, and the goal is to continue the program over the next two years.

“Starting next year we would do the middle part of Falmouth,” Lightbody said, which would include the area around Leighton and Falmouth roads to the area of Woodville and Woods roads.

Lightbody said informational material would be sent to owners of property bordering the town-owned land to be treated next year. There will be an informational meeting for residents to learn about the plan and ask questions of the contractor, and the eradication effort will begin toward the end of summer.

Future efforts must be approved by the Town Council. Lightbody said the final section of town to be targeted in the third year would be Pleasant Hill Road and the Foreside and Flats areas.

Lightbody said favorable weather was one reason the work was able to wrap up early and come in under budget this year. She said during the week the herbicide was being administered, it didn’t rain and there weren’t any windy days when the herbicide could have blown around.

In May, Lightbody said the herbicide was a low-concentration mix which did not pose a risk to native plants or animals.

Lightbody said some areas will have to be treated again, especially for knotweed, but she wasn’t sure how many areas or where they are. She said in each successive year, some spots would require another treatment, as would areas missed by the herbicide application, which Lightbody described as a “very precise application system.”

She said the commission will know what areas need to be treated again after it remaps the areas. The  commission mapped the area and took photos last spring, and is planning to do so again at the end of October. 

“I think we’re on a good path right now,” Lightbody said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.