Sandra Sauer

Sandra Sauer

ACTIVE LIFE: Cutting weeds helps build community

NANAIMO – Good neighbours can have a positive influence and that is what a group from Stephenson Point Road is trying to do.

Good neighbours can have a positive influence on the lives of a street’s residents and that is what a group from Stephenson Point Road is trying to do.

The Stephenson Point Neighbourhood Association has done a lot of work removing invasive plants that have been overwhelming the area and nearby Planta Park.

Most recently, it has been removing the spurge laurel (Daphne laureola), a noxious weed that resembles the rhododendron plant, that is considered a threat to Nanaimo.

According to the Invasive Species Council of B.C., its bark and berries contain toxins and it is known to irritate the skin, cause nausea and even send people into a coma. It can limit the growth of native plants if allowed to grow unhampered.

According to volunteer Gary Smart and association treasurer Sandra Sauer, work parties organized over the last two years removed spurge laurel from the sides of streets and wooded areas – no easy task considering how it can overwhelm an area.

“It’s pretty major. There’s a lot of it,” Sauer said. “You want to get it before it goes to berry in June, so it’s starting to bloom now. It’s easy to pick so this is the time to get it.”

Smart says the spurge laurel seems to expand when cut and some plants are hard to remove.

“You can’t pull that out,” Smart said. “It has to be dug out … I know from personal experience in my own yard. I’ve gone out there and if you cut it, it’s coming back.”

Members get together with gloves and tools, creating an aspect of fellowship out of the tedious task.

“We try to incorporate a lunch, a social, at the end of the work party,” said Sauer.

“We try to keep the work parties relatively short so nobody gets exhausted or bored. You get in there, do the job and you have a social and get to know each other.”

Smart said getting to know the neighbourhood’s residents can be beneficial too.

“It’s getting to know neighbours … in case of emergency, anything like that that happens, you know who’s elderly, it’s a bonding thing that happens and you get to know that they’re just like you, or if they’re not like you, and that’s a real win-win part of it, too,” he said.

It’s about connecting and creating community so neighbours can help each other, according to Sauer.

“I don’t think I would do this if they asked me to go down to another part of the city and pull Daphne,” said Smart. “It’s because it’s my community, it’s my park, it’s almost stewardship. This is where I live.”

“We’ve taken out so much, it’s just amazing and actually you can see, where you can look and you don’t see any Daphne now,” said Sauer.