Foxtail Fighters

(Updated 5/20) About two dozen volunteers, most of them young, assembled this morning to pick up hoes and pickaxes and lay waste to the foxtails in and around the unfenced dog park (“Off Leash Area”). The Parks department led here by Jacob Several, Landscape Gardener Supervisor, provided gloves, hand tools, and guidance. An independent group, Parks Project, provided most of the volunteers. After coffee and pastries from Parks Project, the workers grabbed tools and headed off to whack the hordeum murinum at about 10 a.m., while the rain clouds still held off. About an hour later, the sky opened up, giving the foxtails a reprieve until the next time.

Parks Project, led locally by Karina Umehara, is a national group that organizes volunteers and sells outdoor gear. Its motto is “Leave it better than you found it.” The project normally works in national parks, but Karina is a regular visitor to Cesar Chavez Park and wanted to give back to the park, so she brought the project here.

Jennifer Lynch, one of the volunteers, owns Game Changer Fitness at Telegraph and 55th St. in Oakland. “I really came for the axe,” she joked. As she worked, it became obvious that it would take something heavy like the pick-axe to uproot the well-anchored foxtails. Jennifer, her friend Sarah, and other workers put the dug-up foxtails into plastic buckets so that the seeds would not be left on the ground.

“I came for the axe,” says Jennifer Lynch, fitness coach and volunteer foxtail fighter

This foxtail removal effort is the latest in a series. Parks partnered with the dog owners’ group in 2015 in a similar undertaking. This year, probably because of the heavy rains, the foxtails are showing explosive growth. They’re tall, they’re ripe, they’re thick and dense, particularly in and around the dog park. I’ve seen a couple of dog owners equip their animals with mesh head bags to keep the foxtails out of their faces. The dogs spread the seeds in their fur, and mowing broadcasts the seeds over a wide area. There’s no way that a couple dozen volunteers will put an end to the foxtail nemesis in this area of the park, but it’s a noble, well-intentioned effort.

Jennifer and her friend Sarah battle the barley

What will grow in the bare soil exposed by uprooted hordeum remains to be seen. Chances are, more hordeum. There’s no quick fix to a heavy foxtail infestation. One humane solution is to move the dog area to the southeast corner of the park, where Bristly Oxtongue is the dominant weed and foxtail, though present, is not a big thing.

Karina, the Parks Project coordinator, reports the following summary of the day’s work:

  •  21 local community volunteers.
  • 2500 lbs. of brush/fire fuel loaded, hauled and dumped.
  • Approximately another 1500-2000 lbs. brush/fire fuel cleared.
  • 1580 lbs. of foxtails removed from off leash and on leash areas near trails and paths.
  • 4080 lbs. of green waste total to be hauled off, processed, made into compost, returned to Berkeley to go directly back into community gardens and other gardens.

We gave the volunteers the option of choosing fox-tail removal or fire fuel removal and the latter group cleared so much the dump-truck couldn’t keep up 🙂

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