Marie Roberts, 84, and Stewart Coffin, 83, took time out of their weeklong summer vacation to dig in the dirt and do a good deed.
The former Summit County resident invited her friend Coffin, who’s from Massachusetts, for a getaway in the High Country.
So far, the highlight for Roberts has been reuniting with friends and checking on the flower garden she helped to plant at the Summit County Community and Senior Center. Bicycling at Copper Mountain Resort has been a major highlight for Coffin.
Their vacation plans also included taking part in the “Pulling for Colorado” noxious weed removal event.
“I told Stewart that one of the things we would be doing when we came here was to do the big weed pull,” Roberts said. “It makes you feel good, and you know you are able to contribute.”
Coffin said he’s been gardening since he was 8 years old, so he’s no stranger to working outside.
“Whenever I see a weed I have an inkling to pull it, so it comes naturally,” he said. “It gets in your blood after a while.”
About 50 volunteers contributed to the event on the Frisco peninsula on Saturday. It was a joint effort involving the Summit County weed control department, the Forest Service and the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. The Friends of Breckenridge Trails group also hosted an event to help eradicate noxious weeds at the Cucumber Gulch preserve.
Stephen Elzinga, a range technician for the east zone of the White River National Forest, was on site pulling weeds at the Dickey Trailhead event.
“I’m pitching in to help out and show that the Forest Service appreciates everyone coming out,” he said.
Event organizers and volunteers scoured the trailhead and surrounding areas for noxious weeds.
“It’s good to see their enthusiasm,” Elzinga said. “Some good work was accomplished. I’ll be doing the followup weed control in this area, and they just made my job a lot easier.”
Friends of the Dillon Ranger District volunteer Sue McHenry said she’s been part of every local Pulling for Colorado event. She said over the years more agencies and volunteers have gotten involved, and they’ve been able to make a big difference in stopping the spread of invasive plants.
The mix of volunteers at the weed pull included senior citizens and children, longtime locals and part-time residents, from weed-removal experts to novices.
McHenry said volunteers teamed up to help educate one another. People who weren’t familiar with local weeds weren’t afraid to ask questions and learn from the veteran weed pullers.
“They’ve been asking, ‘What’s this?’ ‘Can I dig this?’ ‘Should I bag this up?’” McHenry said. “Years from now they are going to be the knowledgeable ones leading the volunteers.”
Local weed experts said looks can be deceiving when searching for noxious species. Volunteers pulled up sharp and nasty-looking weeds such as the musk and Canadian thistles. But they were also tasked with picking a prettier-looking plant.
“The false chamomile looks like a daisy, and a lot of people have them in their gardens because it looks ornamental,” said Ryan Cook, with the Summit County weed department.
Even though the plant looks nice, it can have devastating effects to the environment, taking out local species as it disseminates seeds.
“They are a noxious weed that can spread all over the county and get very invasive,” Cook said.
Volunteers made big strides toward protecting the popular recreation area from being taken over by weeds. The knowledge they take home will be equally as valuable, Cook said.
“The education these people take home to their family and neighbors and friends is exponentially beneficial to us beyond what we are doing out here today,” he said.
“Whenever I see a weed I have an inkling to pull it.”