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Policemanís helmet weed Smackdown this month posted on 06/30/2017

(MT) – The Sandy River Basin Watershed Council (SRBWC) and Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) are back, partnering for a fifth consecutive year to reduce the spread of a deceptively enticing garden escapee: policeman’s helmet – and local residents can help.

This streamside invader grows up to ten feet tall, producing white to purple flowers atop reddish stems throughout the summer. Exploding pods disperse the thousands of seeds per plant up to 15 feet, aiding its spread and sending seeds downstream.

Where it takes hold, policeman’s helmet can dominate other native forest plants, degrading critical river habitat.

As an annual, it leaves the banks bare in winter and vulnerable to erosion, impairing water quality for endangered salmon and other stream residents.

Consequently, policeman’s helmet is designated as a class B noxious weed and as a particularly high priority for removal in the upper Sandy and Salmon River Basins, where controlling it is still possible.

Thanks to lottery dollars channeled through the Oregon State Weed Board and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board grants, SRBWC is replanting native vegetation in some of the areas previously treated for policeman’s helmet. Following weed removal with native planting helps to secure areas from becoming re-infested.

SRBWC and CSWCD are focused on the Salmon River and upper Sandy as the upstream source of the weed’s spread, with help from youth and volunteers. Mt. Hood Community College’s Project Youth Employability and Support Services (YESS), University of Utah alternative spring break and Sandy High School (SHS) planted three sites: a section of the golf course at the Resort at the Mountain, the Salmon-Sandy River confluence and a site along the side channel at Wildwood. Contrary to their own common sense, 14 Sandy High School volunteers came out in the torrential rain on a March Saturday morning, to plant native vegetation and restore habitat.

“It was very impressive that these high school students not only showed up, but to see how motivated they were as the rain fell ever harder, plowing knee deep into mud to get these plants in the ground,” said Sara Ennis, SRBWC Stewardship Coordinator,.

SHS biology teacher, Jeremy McGee, said of his students: “These students have been studying environmental science all year and are super motivated to put their knowledge into action to benefit their local community."

To further prove their dedication, SHS students joined SRBWC to kick off the treatment season with a spontaneous policeman’s helmet weed-pull at Wildwood in early May.

Policeman’s helmet is very easy and even fun to pull. Just ask the students who declined visiting Wildwood’s beaver lodge in favor of pulling.

“I get it, pulling policeman’s helmet is fun and can be addictive,” Ennis said.

 Interested parties may try their hand at the SRBWC Policeman’s Helmet Weed Pull event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 15, at the Wildwood Recreation Site, 65670 Hwy. 26 in Welches. The parking fee will be waived and participants should head straight down the drive toward the salmon river shelter and look for a volunteer registration table at the beginning of the circular parking lot

 For more information, visit sandyriver.org, email sara@sandyriver.org or call 971-325-4224.

Working with local residents is also key to Weed Smackdown victory. Property owners within 20 meters of the Salmon River or an infected area are encouraged to contact Sarah Hamilton with the CCSWCD at 503-210-6015 or shamilton@conservationdistrict.org to participate in the Weedwise program. Participation is free and completely voluntary. 

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