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Volunteers organize to remove invasive plants

CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — A group of citizens has taken action to rid the city of at least one invasive plant species. Project RIP, or Remove Invasive Pampas Grass, kicked off its first series of removals in Cardiff-by-the Sea on April 15.
Over the next few weeks, the group of volunteers plans to remove the invasive plant from private properties with the owners’ permission.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth was on site at a private residence to assist in removing a single clump of pampas grass with Encinitas resident Sanford Shapiro and Doug Gibson, executive director and principal scientist at the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.
Invasive and toxic plant species were targeted in a lengthy report presented to the City Council on May 21, 2008. A citizen review panel comprised of experts in botany, medicine, land management and veterinary medicine offered a draft policy that would prohibit a list of invasive and toxic plants in new construction within the city.
The subcommittee was established in June 2007 by City Council and began meeting in November. After exhaustive research the panel agreed on the final list but made clear that it was not stagnant and could change based on feedback from the public and future species developments.
Pampas grass is high on the list of targeted plants for removal. Gibson said the species is carried by seed each time the wind blows so that one plant can rabidly multiply in locations where it was not intended. “Pampas grass is the scourge of my life,” he said. In Carlsbad, the Conservancy assisted in the removal of 30 to 40 acres of the plant. “The water level rose two feet after it was removed,” he said.
Many homeowners would like to be rid of the highly flammable plant that serves as a veritable “rat’s nest” and breeding ground for snakes according to Shapiro. However, under certain conditions, they are prohibited by municipal law. “We are working with the Planning and Engineering staff to work out modifications to the city’s regulations which prohibit or require a permit and fee to remove pampas grass,” he said.
The property owner of the inaugural pampas grass removal project is currently prohibited from removing all but one clump of Pampas grass because the others are located inside of a protected wetland set aside easement.
Education is key to solving the problem of perpetuating invasive species according to Barth. “We are using many avenues to educate the public,” she said. “When given the information, the vast majority of the public will make the right decision.”
Shapiro said the group plans removals in each of the city’s five neighborhoods. “This is a win-win,” he said. “We hope other homeowners will take advantage of this project.”