City confident its phragmites control effort is having an impact

Phragmites treatment along Howard Watson Trail between Exmouth Street and Michigan Avenue.

Troy Shantz

Sarnia’s parks manager is confident the city can eradicate phragmites at the Howard Watson Trail and parts of Canatara Park.

“It may take a couple of years of what I call spot spraying,” said Patti Ross. “We’ll just stay at it.”

Parts of the trail were closed last week for an application of herbicide, which was the second in a two-phase strategy that saw the invasive reed stalks cut and ground up in April.

Once the phragmites is dead a seed mix will be applied to allow native species to return to the area.

Phrag grows in wetlands and along shorelines, reaching five metres in height and packing up to 200 stems into a square metre. The roots produce a toxin that prevents other plants from growing, and the heads contain as many as 2,000 seeds.

“Phragmites crowds out anything else so all that gets sprayed is the phragmites,” Ross said. “Because the native plants just won’t grow there.”

Ross said the strategy led by “Phragmite Frank” Letourneau, a veteran pesticide applicator, should kill about 90% of the reeds.

“The plan for next year will be to move on down the trail. We only have so much money and so much time,” said Ross, noting Sarnia is footing the bill this year because provincial funding wasn’t available.

Clusters of phragmites that have bounced back at Lake Chipican will be sprayed again in September when the plant flowers and park is less busy, she said.

Last year the city and Letourneau tackled the phrag-infested Telfer Drain, which runs between Highway 402 and Lakeshore Road.

The pilot project involved spraying a solution of “Vision Max” herbicide and soya oil and water on the upper green foliage.

While viewing the massive colony Letourneau, who has been in the spraying business for 30 years, said, “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen a drainage ditch.”