Adopt-a-Trail 2022 Recap

Adopt-a-Trail 2022 Recap
Adopt-a-Trail 2022 Recap
After a two-year hiatus (thanks, Covid!), Adopt-a-Trail returned to Whistler for the 2022 season. Here’s how it went.

What is Adopt-a-trail?

Adopt-a-Trail is an opportunity for Whistler residents to show their love for the Valley Trail, the path that connects the town’s neighbourhoods.

Participants came together as teams of family members, friends, roommates and co-workers, and committed to eradicating Burdock from a short section of the Valley Trail. In other words, they adopted a trail section and looked after it from the beginning June to the end of September. Neat, no?


What is Burdock?

Common Burdock is a biennial plant that is best known for its hooked, bristly seed pods that cling onto clothing, equipment, and animals. These burs were actually the inspiration for Velcro!

Common Burdock was unintentionally introduced to North America starting in the 17th century, and it is currently found throughout the Sea to Sky, so strategic control is key.

Common Burdock has several ecological and economic impacts on the Sea to Sky:

Ecological impacts

  • Burdock’s large leaves can outshade and outcompete native plants, leading to biodiversity loss.
  • If left to decompose on site, Burdock’s leaves display allelopathic properties and prevent native species from germinating. In other words, chemicals released as Burdock grows or decomposes inhibit the growth of most other plants.
  • There have been occasional incidences where birds and bats have become entangled in the burs and died.
  • Common Burdock creates suitable environments for other invasive species in the same native range, such as Bitter Dock and black aphids.

Economic impacts

  • Common Burdock hosts powdery mildew and root rot, which can spread to farmers’ crops and reduce crop yield.
  • Burdock taints dairy products when grazed by livestock.
  • Burs can become tangled in horses’ manes and sheep’s wool, damaging their quality and reducing their value.
  • Common Burdock crowds out forage grasses in pastures.

Why should we remove Burdock in Whistler?

Now, it’s fair to say that the economic impacts of Burdock in Whistler are probably limited, as they are generally more serious in agricultural contexts, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t address Burdock infestations in Whistler.

It’s important to address Burdock in Whistler, especially along the Valley Trail, for a variety of reasons:

  • Given the amount of pedestrian and bike traffic it sees each day, the Valley Trail is an important vector of spread for plant seeds like Burdock’s. By eliminating Burdock from the Valley Trail, we signficantly reduce its ability to spread to other areas as well.
  • The seeds only remain viable in the soil for a relatively short period of time (up to 4 years), so the seed bank is short-lived.
  • Though it can be hard work, removal is simple: all you need to remove Burdock is a shovel and a willing attitude!
  • The fewer prickly burs get caught in our pets’ fur, the happier our dogs (and their owners) will be!

Summary of 2022 season

In total, 11 trail segments were formally adopted, which involved 25 participants.

(We’ve also heard of rogue Burdock vigilantes, who took it upon themselves to clean up Burdock from various areas – if this is you, please reach out!)

We also received tremendous help from Leslie Anthony, the Chair of SSISC’s Board of Directors. Over the last few years, Leslie, along with his partner Asta, have spent countless volunteer hours digging Burdock up in Whistler – and we can’t thank them enough for it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Burdock is everywhere... what's the point?
  • Yes, Burdock is well-established in Whistler, but with the seeds only remaining viable for a few years, site-level eradication is possible within a short timeframe. In other words, there may be a lot of Burdock in Whistler right now, but if we work together, in a few years we could get virtually rid of it along the Valley Trail.
  • We’re already seeing success! We are seeing many spots where native plants like salmonberry and thimbleberry are growing back and thriving once the Burdock has been removed.
Why don't the RMOW or SSISC Field Crew carry out the removals?
  • Some removals are done by municipal and SSISC crews (thank you!), however, there is not enough funding or staff time for us to get to it all.
  • We need more hands on deck to carry out removals between the time the plants emerge in the spring, and before Burdock plants set seeds in late summer. This is why we rely on our incredible volunteers – many hands make light work!
Can't we just control Burdock by cutting it down?

Great question!

  • In our experience, Burdock tends to branch out closer to the ground when the leaves are cut but the taproot has not been removed.
  • Burdock taproots contain a lot of energy, so cutting down the foliage won’t exhaust or kill them.

Instead of cutting Burdock down, we recommend the following:

  • Using a shovel or a mattock, dig the taproot up.
  • Remove all plant material (including fresh and old seed heads) from the site to avoid Burdock’s allelopathic effects. Dispose of in sealed garbage bags with household waste. Do NOT compost!

Thank you to our supporters

We want to express our gratitude to the local businesses that generously supported the program by offering in-kind donations:

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

After the season wrapped up, we did a draw among program participants. Congratulations to the winners:

  • Kate T., who won a one-month pass to Whistler Gym Athletic Club;
  • Colleen F., who won a chocolate, fruit and nut slab from Xoco Chocolate; and
  • Ben H., who won a one-hour session for four people at Forged Axe Throwing.

See you next year!

We are already looking forward to 2023 and planning for program improvements; make sure you sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when registration opens for Adopt-a-Trail next spring!

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