Summit County’s Dillon Reservoir weed warriors: ‘We’re not on a dandelion hunt’
November 10, 2016
In Summit County, the weeds have met their match.
After a week's worth of treatments along a 27-mile stretch of the Dillon Reservoir this summer, the shorelines of the regional amenity are protected until at least next year. And make no mistake, these annoying pests aren't of the garden variety, but rather, are noxious aggressors that can depose species traditionally calling the area home.
"We're not on a dandelion hunt," said Ben Pleimann, county weed control manager. "These are required by law that we go after them. It's important for us to avoid a monoculture once the native plants are pushed out."
The list of invaders reads like something from a Dr. Seuss book: the plumeless and musk thistles, the yellow- and Dalmatian-toed flaxes, the oxeye daisy. More common intruders to the community like chamomile and the Canada thistle easily adapt to the mountain climate, taking up residence near water and on dry hillsides. These also require swift eradication or domestic wildflowers admired by tourists and locals alike can be overridden and disappear.
Although the elevation of the county helps — "we're lucky that we're over a pass," said Pleimann — annual attention is necessary, and the recent first-time collaboration between various county agencies attacked the occupiers before they knew what hit them. Before the partnership, weeds near the reservoir were handled in stages by each of the managing entities separately depending on the location on the water, sometimes sustaining at certain sites year-to-year.
Once the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee got involved, however, the multi-pronged effort paired with the county Weed Control Department, put the unwelcome guests on notice. A three-person weed crew roved the shores along Lake Dillon's grouping of islands while a barge and captain provided by the town of Frisco and the sheriff's office followed for herbicide refueling and to take on trash also rooted out from the land.
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"The main thing we came for was the weeds," said Pleimann, "but we figured as long as we're walking the land we might as well pick up the trash, too. We found lawn chairs, flip-flops, lots of hats, Coke bottles, underwear — all sorts of junk. The fishing line and bobbers really start to pile up."
Denver Water, which owns and operates the reservoir and is also a member of Dillon Reservoir committee, took part as well, lending staff and the weed poison for the mitigation endeavor that traversed segments of shoreline owned by the town of Dillon and the U.S. Forest Service, the latter chipping in funds for non-campground forest property. Other sections possessed and managed by Frisco and Denver Water received treatments, too.
"We pooled our resources after we saw how we could all bring something to table and develop a plan from there," said Jason Lederer of the county's Open Space & Trails Department, and staff for the reservoir committee. "That made the program really efficient and really directed. The project was a real success and showed the value of this partnership in addressing some of the other concerns that existed in the reservoir."
The weeds will almost certainly be back by next summer, but through the new county collective, they've now been sufficiently warned.