The recent sorry state of the “Welcome to Washington” sign on northbound Interstate 5 in Vancouver encapsulated a dismal reality throughout Clark County: We are being overrun by weeds.
The current abundance of the unsightly, sometimes noxious plants can be blamed in part on the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The need to remain socially distanced, plus the budget impacts created by the novel coronavirus, have limited weed-elimination efforts by government agencies and volunteers.
Clark County Public Works, for instance, is at this time “focusing efforts on the highest priority species of noxious weeds: Class A weeds and also poison hemlock,” according to its website. “Pasture surveys and responding to reports of all other species will be delayed,” it continues.
In case you’re wondering, Clark County’s Class A weed list (eradication required) numbers 37 species. It includes perennial problem plants such as various types of thistle, different brooms and garlic mustard.
One of the county’s most pervasive weeds is on its Class B list: tansy ragwort. Clark County residents have known and loathed this noxious plant with its yellow flowers for many years. Control of tansy was once a priority of the county, but enforcement has waned over the years for a variety of reasons. And given its abundance around the county, many people either don’t realize they are responsible for removing tansy from their property, or they don’t care.
But care they should. While it might be just a Class B weed in the county’s classification, tansy ragwort, according to Public Works’ website, “is an invasive, toxic weed. When prevalent, tansy ragwort is one of the most common causes of poisoning in cattle and horses, which is typically caused by consumption of the weed found in pastures, hay or silage. Milk produced by affected cows and goats can contain toxins.”
Public Works notes that “noxious weeds cost the United States on average $30.6 billion each year in decreased land value, money and time spent on control efforts, lower crop yields, reduced forage quality and impacts on animal health.”
Not only are weeds unsightly (and often stinky and scratchy), they can create hazards for drivers and pedestrians. Tall weeds along some Clark County streets make it difficult for drivers turning onto roads to see oncoming traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians. Some residents have complained about invasive blackberry bushes that have grown so large they render sidewalks impassable.
The most important — and likely most difficult — step in the battle to curb unchecked weeds is to get property owners, neighbors and homeowners associations to care about the problem. Weeds aren’t just ugly, they’re a detriment to property values and can pose a health hazard to pets, livestock and people.
Despite the county’s caution, we think that with a little planning, pulling weeds can be an effective socially distanced outdoor activity and, we might add, a good way to keep bored children busy.
As Clark County Public Works says, “The best control method of all is to prevent weeds in the first place.” But it’s clear we’ve moved far beyond that. So here’s hoping that just as the “Welcome to Washington” sign was spruced up, residents will be inspired to pull together to control weeds in their neighborhoods.