Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blackberries Are Taking Over Our Parks

Comment to the Josephine County Commissioners, 10-31-12. 

Honorable Commissioners:
          When I lived here in the mid-‘80s, I took a Wild Edible Plants class.  We took a field trip in the wilder parts of Schroeder Park, where I got a look at their leaf piles.  They were growing the biggest wild lettuce and radishes I had ever seen.  This convinced me that thick leaf mulch was the key to improving my dad’s garden soil, and I gathered dozens of bags of decomposing leaves that winter from the city’s leaf dump near Riverside Park, where we also did field trips in the woods.
          I would not have the opportunity for such insight today.  The County and City take all of their leaves to fill Jo Gro’s hungry maw.  The City even hauls them for residents for free, though it chokes on the influx each fall and can’t sell all the compost they make, even at a much lower price than Southern Oregon Compost.
          But we also cannot walk through the woods in the unimproved portions of Schroeder Park as we did in the 80’s, because nearly every space that is not lawn is covered with blackberries.  There are paths cut through them down to the river at intervals, and a path cut along the edge above high water, where one can walk through high walls of blackberries.  All around the rest of the park, there are few paths, just walls of blackberries and one cut-off piece of meadow on the south that one can see but not get to.  At the south end, across from the tennis courts, there appears to be a park building cut off from the park by blackberries, approachable only from the neighbor’s property.
          The same has happened to our city parks.  The wilder parts of nearly every large park are full of blackberries, stopping us from walking in our woods except along certain well-used paths.  Unfortunately, those paths are often used by disorderly people who throw their trash in the blackberries where it is difficult to pick up, making themselves comfortable and orderly people nervous.
          Some people think that because blackberries taste good and the plants are thorny, that they are useful hedge plants, fences, and space filler.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They are ugly, and they attract litter which makes them uglier.  In our area, unless they are well-watered, the fruit is not worth picking.  They build up dead canes inside their mounds and hedges, which are a huge fire hazard.  They provide homes for vermin like rats.  And even berries not worth picking by people get eaten and spread by birds.  They are called a noxious weed for good reasons.  This County ought to take that designation by the state seriously, and clear them off its properties.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener         541-955-9040

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