West Van's plant protectors

Knot your average couple - Elspeth and Ray Bradbury, pictured here with Coun. Nora Gambioli (centre), are on a mission to rid parks of invasive plants like knotweed. - Submitted
Knot your average couple - Elspeth and Ray Bradbury, pictured here with Coun. Nora Gambioli (centre), are on a mission to rid parks of invasive plants like knotweed.
— image credit: Submitted

Removing invasive species from Lighthouse Park has become a 25-year quest for a West Vancouver couple. Ivy, scotch broom, lamium and knotweed are on the top of Elspeth and Ray Bradbury’s search-and-destroy list.

“Lamium travels like lava over the forest floor, it’s planted in hanging baskets then dumped, and ivy invades everywhere,” Elspeth tells The Outlook. “We want these gone because they surround and kill native plants.”

After ripping out the noxious invaders, the Bradbury’s replant native trees and shrubs much more suitable for the area.

Along with other volunteers from the Lighthouse Preservation Society, the couple looks after five other parks nearby.

The Dale Park is the most infested, they say, and like others will take years to restore. On the upside, Lighthouse Park is almost clear of ivory now.

“The whole point is to increase biodiversity,” says Ray, explaining why its vital to look after surrounding parks. “The smaller the natural area is, the least amount of species it can support.”

They hope to link all the small parks together again, instead of having them on their “own little islands.” This way, animals can travel over longer distances.

“It’s heartbreaking to see how degraded parks have become through ignorance and carelessness,” says Elspeth.

Dumping invasive plants into parks without knowing the environmental consequences is a leading problem, she says, along with gardeners planting foreign plants, like brightly-coloured flowers, because they look nice.

The Bradbury’s became founding members of the Lighthouse Park Preservation Society after they retired to West Van 25 years ago. Today the group has grown to over 150 people.  Between 2005 and 2010 they helped restore the popular Beacon Hill Trail and made a map of Caulfeild Park’s native plant species.

They were awarded a West Van Environment Award earlier this month for their leadership.

Japanese knotweed, one of the most dangerous invasive plants, should only be handled by district staff, says Ray.

“You’re not going to get rid of it just by chopping it off. The roots go down three feet and spread 30 feet.”

Knotweed, a bamboo-like plant that grows up to five metres tall, is threatening parks throughout the North Shore. One of the only ways to control its spread, says Ray, is by injecting herbicide into the stem.

Lighthouse Park has already been treated for knotweed along with many other West Van parks, including Ambleside, John Lawson and Dundarave. “You can’t help the whole planet, so it’s good to start at your doorstep,” says Ray. “It takes hard work to do these things but we’re doing them for our grandchildren and future.”


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