A local crusader in the war against phragmites is calling for a coordinated Lambton-wide effort to deal with what’s become a thorn in the side of municipalities across the province.
Nancy Vidler, of the Lambton Shores Phragmites Community Group, appealed to Lambton County council Wednesday for the creation of a phragmites coordinator position to oversee local eradication efforts.
While county staff continue to spray against phragmites along county-maintained roads, Vidler said a patchwork system of private landowners, lower-tier municipalities and other stakeholders are currently taking responsibility for other phragmites-infested lands in their own jurisdictions.
“We could become the first county in Ontario to tackle phragmites as a county,” Vidler said in her pitch to council.
County staff have been directed to prepare a report on a possible coordinated effort to treat against the aggressive weed known to spread quickly and kill surrounding plants.
Phragmites has already spread right across Lambton County, impacting both roadways and shorelines, said Jason Cole, the county’s general manager of infrastructure and development services.
County staff have been working informally with a variety of stakeholders – like the Lambton Shores Phragmites Community Group – on addressing the situation.
“We’re in a very good position to bring (a report) forward to see who could head up coordination best,” he said after Wednesday’s meeting.
Vidler stressed to council how untreated phragmites poses a “huge cost” to the county because of its potential impact to local tourism, recreation opportunities and property values.
Phragmites also poses fire and road safety risks.
“We should be concerned about the huge cost if we continue to ignore it and also because we continue to contribute to the spread along the Lake Huron shoreline and the other Great Lakes shorelines and across the province,” she said.
More than 300 acres of Lake Huron shoreline caught up in the phragmites battle have been treated with the support of the Lambton Shores Phragmites Community Group and other community partners.
Work is now expected to start at a marsh just west of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation.
The Lambton Shores Phragmites Community Group recently received a $200,000 grant to support the three-year project from the National Wetland Conservation Fund.
“Kettle & Stony Point has received some funding as well, so we’re working along with them,” Vidler said.
City/county Coun. Anne Marie Gillis congratulated Vidler for continuing to be a “crusader” in the fight against phragmites.
“I’m amazed how you brought so many community groups together, and if you can do it, surely (the county) can,” she said.
Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber welcomed Wednesday efforts to coordinate the response to phragmites locally.
“This is bigger than Lambton Shores,” he said. “This is bigger than Lambton County, and we need to champion this at the provincial level.”