Saanich halts herbicide use at Kings Park greenspace amid neighbourhood outcry

Municipality planned to apply Garlon XRT to target invasive plant species

Residents living near the Kings Park greenspace in Saanich were panicked when signs warning of an upcoming pesticide application set to begin April 6 and contacted the municipality to ask that it pause the initiative. (Photo courtesy Rob Vanzella)

A herbicide application process planned for Kings Park in Saanich was paused after the community expressed concern about the environmental impacts.

On April 1, signs were posted in the greenspace along Bowker Creek bounded by Richmond and Kings roads, warning that a pesticide called Garlon XRT would be applied in the area the following week starting on April 6. According to the signs, the targeted pest, lesser celandine, is among the Capital Regional District’s priority invasive species as it spreads quickly and is toxic to mammals.

“The community is super engaged and the nature space is well-used,” so neighbours were quick to take notice of the signs, said Rebecca Sterritt, an area resident and member of the community group campaigning to protect the park. A flurry of texts was sent as “people just panicked” about a herbicide being sprayed in the area and the possible impacts on people and wildlife.

READ ALSO: Herbicide used to target ‘priority’ invasive species in Saanich park

As it was a holiday weekend, advocates were worried they wouldn’t have time to stop the spraying, but by Tuesday morning, Mayor Fred Haynes had directed staff to hold off to allow for community consultation. He noted that he’d received many calls and emails from concerned residents over the weekend and saw a need to act quickly.

An owl that recently took up residence in Kings Park was spotted eating a crawfish it caught in Bowker Creek on April 1. (Photo courtesy Deanna Pfeifer)

The herbicide, which has an active ingredient called triclopyr, could end up in the creek which may negatively impact wildlife in the area as well as salmon restoration efforts downstream, he said.

In January, when Saanich was applying Garlon XRT in Sayward Hill Park, Eva Riccius, senior manager of parks, explained that the herbicide is only used to target priority invasives – including knotweed, shiny geranium, lesser celandine, garlic mustard, gorse and English holly – while others can be pulled by hand.

READ ALSO: Saanich extends deadline for $2.75-million Kings Park fundraising

Garlon XRT is applied directly to plants, not sprayed, and is only used “as a last resort” across the region, she explained at the time. As a precaution, park users are advised to avoid handling the treated plants for 24 hours after application.

Kings Park neighbours have expressed interest in working with Saanich staff to remove the lesser celandine by hand to avoid the use of chemicals, Sterritt said. While this may not be possible, she’s hopeful that a collaborative approach will allow an alternative solution to be reached.

She added that it was “pretty neat” to see the municipality respond so quickly to residents’ concerns.


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District of Saanich