[Editor’s Note: Reminder, Annual Town Meeting is a week from Saturday at 1:00 pm on March 23rd. For more posts related to ATM, click here.]
This week, I’ve already covered two of the new Community Preservation Act projects Town Meeting voters will be asked to support. Here’s the third.
The Open Space Preservation Commission is seeking funds to replace invasive plants with native species on town-owned conservation land. Article 24 will ask for up to $20,300 in CPA funds for the intitiative. (The project is estimated at $18,300 with the additional $2K as contingency.)
Last week, OSPC’s Karen Cvitkovich presented to the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee. She explained that the work will mainly target two problem invasive plant species – one known to attract the spotted lanternfly and another that has been destructive to the Town’s iconic stone walls.
The intent is to remove the invasives. But, as OSPC and CPC Chair Freddie Gillespie stressed, if they don’t plant something in the place of removed plants, other invasive plants will likely move in. Therefore, they will plant native species in their place.
Cvitkovich said that the native plants will require less water and are hardy. They also have a secondary purpose of supporting native pollinators like endangered bee species.
The project is focused on two properties. One of those is 32 Cordaville Road. Some of you may realize the second address is the same as the Golf Course and new public safety complex.
Gillespie explained that they didn’t refer to the golf course, because the work isn’t for the course. That project includes killing the Japanese Knotweed that is wrecking the stone wall along Route 85. The deep roots are dismantling the stones. And in the springtime, the plant is like a wall blocking the view of the stone and the heritage plants behind them.
Still, she mentioned that the project does have a benefit for the course. Eliminating invasives is one of the steps for achieving Mass Audubon certification for the course. That is a project that voters approved the Town working towards in order to improve the marketing value of the course.
Gillespie explained that the tree, which is from the lantern’s fly native home, attracts the insect for breeding. Once the insect has mated, it’s less picky. It will lay eggs on any trees and the hatched nymphs will eat all kinds of plants. She warned that the invasive is making its way to our state and has been devastating to plants in other regions.
The OSPC Chair said the spotted lanternfly has been called “the worst insect to hit our shores in 100 years, maybe ever.” (You can see images of the fly from the presentation below.)
By getting a head start on identifying and removing the Tree of Heaven, the commission hopes to limit the level of infestation in our area.
The other parcel covered by the Article is the Halloran property purchased by Town Meeting last year. The OSPC presentation described it as “Relatively invasive free” but noted there is an “Oriental Bittersweet infestation at property edges and some invasive hot spots in the interior”.
Gillespie assured Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf that they wouldn’t need another department (like Public Works) to do any of the work. Because of nearby wetlands, there are some constraints.
OSPC intends to use a company they have worked with at Breakneck Hill Road. Gillespie explained that the contractor uses a “cocktail” mixed specifically based on the plant and its location. Gillespie acknowledged that while OSPC doesn’t like using chemicals it in some situations it is the least invasive method.
DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan wondered about the impact of removed plants on the Transfer Station budget. She asked if disposal of materials was in the project budget.
Galligan said that a project last year to remove purple loosestrife resulted in a lot more bags of material than they anticipated. Gillespie believed it was but said that if they need to work out a budget for that with the DPW they will.
Selectmen urged her to do that. Selectman Dan Kolenda reasoned that if something in an Article impacts another budget, it would be good to work out in advance.
Gillespie told selectmen that removal of the Tree of Heaven can be done quickly and Oriental Bittersweet in about a year. Effectively removing the Japanese Knotwood will take three years. But even for that plant, results should be seen immediately. The weeds will be cut back but eliminating the roots takes longer.
Kolenda pushed for the Commission to come back with before and after photos. He urged the OSPC to demonstrate their CPA projects’ success for the public.
Selectmen unanimously supported the article. For the full text of Article 24, click here.