RIDGWAY – With the out-of-control spread of spotted knapweed on the banks of the Uncompahgre River in Ridgway, the Ridgway Town Council is poised to battle the noxious weed by applying an herbicide. But they will first give residents a chance to pull the weeds by hand.
The town currently has a resolution in place that states no chemical herbicides will be used within town limits. But with spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa), a non-native plant species, overrunning the banks of the river, they are planning a one-time exemption to their policy. Spotted knapweed is designated as a “List B” species on the Colorado Noxious Weed Act and is required to be eradicated, contained, or suppressed, depending on the level of infestation.
“Spotted knapweed is exploding and is out of control,” Ouray County Weed Manager Ron Mabry told town council at their April 14 meeting. “We need to do something about it and do something as soon as possible.” Mabry went on to say that he recommends the use of the herbicide Milestone. “Nothing else is approved for an area near the river and it has a special reduced risk category. It is the safest thing we can use down there.”
Weed control measures during the past few years have had less-than-desirable results in eradicating the weed. Mabry has worked with the Youth Corps to pull the weeds by hand, but with unsatisfactory results. Similarly, Mabry has led two Pulling for Colorado volunteer events at the site, but volunteer attendance has significantly dropped.
Members of the Ridgway Town Council came into the meeting with an awareness of the large number of Ridgway residents that are passionately against the town using herbicides to control weeds. Many of those same residents appeared at the meeting to reiterate their concerns.
“I have chemical sensitivities because of asthma,” resident Susan Baker told council. “I understand that it is a noxious weed and I understand that we have to deal with it. I just ask you all to pause before you allow the use of [Milestone]. Let’s try to get a crew together and go out there and pull the stuff up.”
Several others who attended the meeting expressed they would like an opportunity to pull the weeds.
Mabry first informed council of the severity of the spotted knapweed problem at a work session on March 17, during which he elaborated on his previous experience using Milestone. Explaining the he has worked with chemically sensitive people in other parts of the county, Mabry said his use of the product has not yielded detrimental effects to their health.
Jean McDonnell, who is registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as being chemically sensitive, attended Wednesday’s meeting to show support for the use of Milestone.
“This is the only product that I can go near within 48 hours,” McDonnell told council. “It’s quick and it’s a one time thing. As far as human health and me being sensitive to toxic herbicides, I am the extreme. I am not a pushover for any of these things but if you choose to spray at all over there, this is the safest [herbicide].”
If spraying does take place, Mabry then told council he would need to be done before the weed goes to seed, sometime between May 15 and June 1.
“It does come to a point where the only way to manage it is with an herbicide,” Councilmember Rich Durnan said, adding that he would like to give residents every opportunity to tackle the problem before spraying must occur. “They could rally 200 people for four days to pull and that would be great. If it doesn’t happen, then we have a plan.”
With that council agreed to give citizens one month to organize and pull the spotted knapweed. Council will receive an update on the progress of the pulling effort at its May 12 meeting.
Council then unanimously approved Resolution 10-04, which establishes a temporary exemption to the town policy to allow for the one-time spraying of Milestone to control the spotted knapweed problem. Councilmembers made it very clear that if and when the spraying occurs, every effort will be taken to inform the community of when the planned spraying will begin and when it will be safe to return to the area.
“The more that gets pulled, the less that will get sprayed,” Durnan said.
Baker volunteered to organize weed pullers and said she can be reached at 970/318-6903.