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‘Phragbusters’ lay siege to Waubaushene’s invasive species

Volunteers, Tay council members and Georgian Bay Forever team up to reduce ecological threat

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you might call may depend on if it's environmentally-invasive species of root-based plant.

Georgian Bay Forever teamed up with Tay volunteers on Wednesday in an effort to diminish the ecological threat of invasive phragmites within the shore area of Waubaushene Beach.

“My unofficial title is Phragbuster,” laughed Jared McNabb, educational program outreach coordinator.

“I work with Georgian Bay Forever; it’s an environmental charity. And what we’re doing around Tay Township this summer is we’re mapping and cutting invasive phragmites stands. We’ve got one in Waubaushene Beach here, and it’s quite a large stand. That’s why we’ve got the help of these great people today,” said McNabb in praise of the turnout.

Joining in with members of the community were Tay Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle, Coun. Barry Norris, and Coun. Jeff Bumstead.

“It is an invasive species, and what it does is it smothers out other plants and aquatic wildlife including fish habitat,” Bumstead explained, “so we see it as a necessity to clean up our shorelines and let other natural plants flourish as they should.”

Cutting to drown methods were used by the participants, which involved placing a bladed tool such as a cane cutter into the sediment of the plant’s base at a 45-degree angle to sever and effectively drown the crucial root system and deprive its stalks of sunlight and nutrients.

According to McNabb, approximately 300 invasive phragmites sites were mapped this year along the waters of Port McNicoll, Victoria Harbour, Waubaushene, and Matchedash Bay. Stands of the tall-stalked plant can range in size between two and 50 metres.

Working in pairs, members of Georgian Bay Forever can cut on average up to of five medium-sized stands per day. As for the productivity for volunteers of Waubaushene Beach wading toward the 12-metre stands, McNabb stated that “it depends on peoples’ willingness to get in the water and help out, but we just expect them to do what they can; no pressure.”

Georgian Bay Forever provided guidance, instruction, and supplies to combat the submerged threat. Volunteers were advised to bring long sleeves, pants, and rubber boots for protection; while hip-waders were in attendance, some volunteers such as Bumstead went into the thigh-high depths wearing shorts.

“This is my first time doing it,” said Bumstead prior to entering. “I live on a farm in the rural communities, so a lot of times, we’re dealing with agricultural invasive species on our own property and neighbouring properties just to try and control that. So I’m interested to learn a lot today about the proper way to cut it and remove it so it doesn’t come back.”

Further information on invasive phragmites is available on the Georgian Bay Forever website.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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