Casco approves invasive plant removal funds

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — It only takes a seed for the invasive plant Japanese Knotweed to take root and then take over natural habitat with its rapid, thicket-like growth.

The elected public officials in Casco are willing to provide more than seed money to bid “Sayonara” to the Japanese Knotweed within the town’s borders.

The Casco Board of Selectmen on July 12 voted to allocate $2,500 to hire the company Vegetation Control Services, Inc., of Athol, Mass., to eradicate the invasive weed and to provide followup services next summer. The funding will come from the Road Maintenance Account.

Conservation Committee member Rona Fried, who is a lifelong summer resident, recommended that the town follow in Falmouth’s footsteps and hire professionals to deal with the growing problem of Japanese Knotweed, also called Mexican bamboo.

Already, Fried has contacted Vegetation Control staff and discussed removal of the invasive weeds in Casco Village. Although the company could not give an exact price without seeing the infestation, she was given an estimate of $1,000 for the removal of Japanese Knotweed in the village.

She suggested putting together a list of the worst infestations, contacting landowners willing to participate in the eradication, and touching base with the Town of Falmouth to coordinate dates. The eradication services would be less expensive if Vegetation Control did the job in Casco while a crew was in Maine, Fried said.

For the past few years, Fried has come before the board to request permission to remove the invasive vine Asiatic bittersweet from public property in the village.

“I personally have no method of killing Japanese Knotweed. We (the Conservation Committee) spoke to you last year and the year before. Meanwhile, that knotweed is really advancing. It doesn’t look like Maine anymore,” she said.

Fried and others said that the Japanese Knotweed has started to take hold in the wooded areas near Lilly Brook (also called Lily Brook) which connects Pleasant Lake to Parker Pond. One of the efforts of the Pleasant Lake-Parker Pond Association (PLPPA) has been protecting Lilly Brook from invasive species on land and in the water.

“If you can see, it is right along Lilly Brook now, by the tunnel (culvert),” Fried said.

“We are still at the point that we can nip this in the bud. Something needs to get done quickly and efficiently by professionals,” she said.

The selectmen were on board with hiring a professional company to eradicate the invasive weed.

Selectman Grant Plummer said that board members and town staff could put together the list of private property owners whose land has been invaded by Japanese knotweed.

Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said, “The issue for me as road commissioner is the machine will go through and knock down the knotweed; and in no time, it will be back and blocking the view again.”

“It is more in road rights-of-way where we have heavy infestations. They are double in that area. The right-of-way is 50 feet so if it is in the road right-of-way, it is the town’s property,” he said.

“I suggest we do it through road maintenance. All the weeds are within the road rights-of-way. We could spend up to $2,500 from the road maintenance fund for eradication. Then, we’ll evaluate it, and see if we want to make it part of our regular budget,” Morton said.

According to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website, “Japanese knotweed is a robust perennial herb that emerges early in the spring and forms dense thickets up to nine feet in height. Thickets may be so dense that virtually all other plant species are shaded out. Large colonies frequently exist as monocultures, reducing the diversity of plant species and significantly altering natural habitat.”

“Reproduction from rhizomes (horizontal underground stems), even small fragments, enables the plant to be easily transferred to new sites by flowing water and by soil used as fill. Unchecked, this plant can colonize extensively in riparian areas. Once established, it is difficult to remove,” the website said.

Fried said it is important to battle these aggressive, invasive plant species and to protect what is natural in Maine.

“To me, the value of Maine is its lakes, its forests. The fact that when you go down the road and into the forest you see native plants — that is of value,” she said.

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