If there’s one thing to know about the residents of the Sea to Sky region, it is that we know how to play.
From biking and hiking and climbing to off-roading and trail running, we don’t mind getting a little dirty along the way.
We all know the rule of leave no trace and leaving outdoor spaces just as good as how we found them, but how can we apply this principle when getting covered in mud is half the fun of playing outside? The key here is to arrive clean to the trailhead with no trace of our past adventures clinging onto our gear.
The problem with leaving a recreational area with weeds and mud stuck in the spokes of our bikes or tread of our hiking boots, is that seeds from invasive species can get carried out with our gear. Then when we arrive at a different trail the following weekend, the mud-containing seeds get dropped off in the new area.
This is a major vector of spread for many invasive species found within the Sea to Sky region. Without meaning to, we run the risk of hurting the natural spaces we love to play in when we are leaving a trail caked in mud.
Orange Hawkweed is an example of a common invasive that spreads up trails with the help of unsuspecting hikers and trail runners.
Left uncontrolled, Orange Hawkweed outcompetes native plants, including native wildflowers, and threatens biodiversity. Our biggest concern is having Orange Hawkweed make its way into the alpine, where it could destroy the beautiful multi-coloured landscape of the native wildflower meadows.
Similarly, Common Burdock poses a threat to Whistler’s diverse ecosystems. Spreading easily with its Velcro-like burs, the seeds of this invasive plant are frequently found stuck to trail users’ clothing, gear (like backpacks), shoes, and pets.
These burs can travel over 10 km when stuck to hikers, pets or wild animals. When introduced to natural areas, Common Burdock grows quickly and outcompetes native vegetation. In addition, it creates a suitable environment for other invasives such as Bitter Burdock and black aphids to jump to.
By adopting the Play, Clean, Go principles, we can help protect the incredible biodiversity throughout the Sea to Sky region from detrimental invasive species. We can contain Orange Hawkweed to lower elevations and prevent its spread above treeline by cleaning off our shoes and gear after use in the outdoors. Similarly, looking for and cleaning off burs and plant material from our pets, gear, clothing and shoes, can prevent us from spreading Common Burdock to new locations and harming the native species.