If goats can’t come back this year...
Bear Creek Garden Association volunteers know how to handle weeds

       Bear Creek Garden Association (BCGA) members don't know if they will have enough money to bring back the weed-eating goats this year - but if not, they definitely know how to attack state-identified noxious plants on their own.

Meg Evans of the Bear Creek Garden Association (BCGA) demonstrates a scuffle hoe at the boundary between the BCGA's weeded area and County Parks' untended buffer area.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Meg Evans, who has been with the non-profit organization almost since its formation in 1986, goes out frequently with other volunteers all summer long, using customized scuffle-hoes to trim weeds to ground level in the 19-acre area around the association's 2-acre vegetable garden in Bear Creek Regional Park.
       Evans talked about her control work as part of a four-part BCGA presentation on weed control March 28 at the Bear Creek Nature Center. Close to 80 people were on hand. A similar number of people had turned out the previous Saturday for a BCGA talk on organic gardening.
       Nymann said the association has raised only about two-thirds of what it needs to afford the goats in '09. “The economy is such that donations aren't as high,” Nymann said. “But we have a couple of grant applications out.”
       A $10,000 grant, aided by private donations, allowed a goat herd to be brought to Bear Creek twice in 2007.
       The animals are desirable because they not only eat the bad weeds but fertilize in the process, making it possible afterward for wild grasses to thrive in those areas. Such improvements, augmented by Evans' scuffle-hoe teams, can clearly be seen in comparison with the untended buffer area between the BCGA area and the chemically sprayed part of the mostly undeveloped park southeast of 21st and Rio Grande streets. The buffer area has noticeably more weeds than grass.
       Historically, gardening was an element of the county Poor Farm that existed into the 1970s in that location. The Bear Creek Garden was under the Colorado State University Extension Office until 1986. When CSU withdrew its support, some of the gardeners went before the county and gained a lease to use and operate an organic garden for personal use. Forming the BCGA, they installed a water system and began a continuing system of subleasing plots to other gardeners to cover the costs of maintenance.
       This year, the garden will be open to planting April 18, with the county not turning on the water until May, Nymann said.
       In her talk, Evans briefly explained the history of the BCGA's weed agreement with the county. It dates back to when the state ordered in 1993 that efforts were necessary to control noxious weeds because of their adverse effect on indigenous plants and trees as well as on animals.
       When the county announced plans to use chemical sprays, the BCGA objected - even though the county has deemed its sprays “environmentally friendly” - and worked out the present agreement that lets the volunteers organically tend a 19-acre area around the garden, bringing in the goats when affordable.
       Two of the most prevalent weeds are the common teasel and the Canada thistle. The latter “is our biggest problem,” Evans said. “It shows up about April 15.” You can forget about digging them up all the way, she said. “The roots go down 13 feet.”
       The BCGA effort also requires constant “vigilance” for new weed types that might show up, she said.
       Evans found it amusing that another weed, leafy spurge, was declared a noxious weed in Colorado three years ago, but is still sold in nurseries in some other states.
       The hoe BCGA volunteers use have been customized to take more abuse than normal scuffle hoes, she said.
       Even still, hoeing in Bear Creek Park is never successful overnight, Evans said, requiring many return visits. One person who had hoed with BCGA volunteers one summer was dismayed that the weeds were back in two weeks. But Evans reassured her that the work had indeed stressed the plants. “No green on top, no energy to roots,” is her weeding credo.

Westside Pioneer article