Twice as many volunteers out cutting Scotch broom on Vancouver Island due to COVID-19

CHEK
WatchRoadsides and parklands are bright yellow with invasive Scotch broom that is spreading and in bloom across Vancouver Island right now. Yet as Skye Ryan reports, the pandemic is actually helping volunteers efforts to cut it out.

Betty Koch was cutting a swath through Parksville’s invasive Scotch broom on Friday.

“It feels great to look and go okay how much longer can I work,” said Betty Koch, a new resident to Parksville.

“You look at it and you go I need to cut that. So yeah it’s pretty rewarding.”

Every one of the 65-year-old Parksville woman’s volunteer shifts at local charities vanished when COVID-19 closed their doors. So she decided to roll up her sleeves, grab some clippers and lend a hand with BroomBusters. The group fights the prolific weed’s takeover of roadsides and parklands in the community.

“I’m here to be part of the community,” said Koch. Friday was her first morning with BroomBusters.

“This year has been so different with COVID-19,” said Joanne Sales, a mid-Island organizer with BroomBusters.

“So many people in isolation.”

According to Sales, COVID-19 has led to a huge increase in volunteers.

“I’d say especially in a pandemic I think people are more socially-minded,” she said.

“They’re more conscious of how important our environment is and they start caring about what’s on their street.”

Twice as many people as a typical year are now out physically distancing and snipping the bright yellow broom, Island wide.

The trick is to cut the broom at root level while it’s still in bloom. That window only lasts until the end of May when it goes to seed and then aggressively spreads its reach for another season.

“They’re cutting broom in areas that I didn’t even know there was broom,” said Sales.

“I didn’t even know those places existed.”

According to organizers, the impact of all the extra hands will be noticeable. With Scotch broom being highly flammable, its removal will reduce roadside fire dangers.

There will also be a resurgence of native species that are choked out of their natural habitat.

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