Noxious Weeds and Dumping in Open Space

At this time of year there are many job duties for Park Rangers and one major area is monitoring the Open Space for noxious weeds. Our contractor, Foothills Vegetation, is spraying select areas and Seasonal Rangers are busy backpack spraying, popping and mowing noxious weeds within the Open Space.

Many people ask why noxious weeds are a problem. While noxious weeds are often attractive, their effects are not. Introduced mainly from Europe and Asia, with no natural enemies in their new environments, the weeds are able to spread uncontrollably. As the noxious weeds multiply, the number of native plants can be vastly reduced. Since wildlife is dependent on native plants as their food source, an increase in noxious weeds means a decrease in the native wildlife. Some of the weeds you may see in Open Space are: Leafy Spurge, Diffuse Knapweed, Dalmatian Toadflax, Canada, Musk and Scotch Thistle.

The Rangers have made fighting noxious weeds a priority for many years. Currently $40,000 is spent yearly on chemical, contractual spraying, seasonal and full-time wages while mapping and spraying noxious weeds. As you can see, this amount has to be spread out over all of the Open Space. Prioritizing weeds in Open Space and deciding which areas to concentrate on is the most challenging. Many areas have to be rotated over several years and this can unfortunately leave areas open to infestation.

Dumping of landscape material by homeowners is the most reported rules violation in Open Space next to homes. Residents perform many landscape projects and think if they dump potting soil, rocks, sod, weeds, dirt etc. in piles they are not doing any harm. However, the debris can smother grasses, allowing seed banks of noxious weeds to grow and spread. Weeds can even become established from seeds contained within the dumped material.

This fight against noxious weeds is a big problem in Colorado and a law was passed in 1990, The Colorado Noxious Weed Act (CRS 35-5.5). This law requires all public and private landowners in the State of Colorado to maintain control over certain noxious weeds. This law addresses the severe threat that these non-native plants pose to native plant communities, wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and property values within the State. If a landowner has noxious weeds on their property, they are required by law to prevent their spread.

As a friendly reminder, please dispose of any material properly in your trash and do not carelessly dump it in Open Space. It will be more work in the end to remove the material and restore the Open Space after receiving a Rules Violation notice. If you have any questions you may call the Rangers at 303-979-1876, ext. 170.

Ken-Caryl Ranch