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hit squad

One last HIT for the season By Amy Fendley It has been a successful summer for the Whistler-Blackcomb Habitat Improvement Team (HIT), which has one last work session scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 7. HIT is a mountain-facilitated, community-based group that was created last summer to undertake hands-on environmental projects in the valley. Since early June, the HIT squad has completed seven projects, including stream work, tree planting, garbage clean-up, and trail maintenance. Volunteers from the community meet bi-weekly on Tuesday evenings to gear up and tackle various projects. The group’s tools, equipment and transportation are provided by Whistler-Blackcomb, but the projects are carried out in the valley, not on the mountains. For those who would like to participate in HIT, now’s the chance. HIT will require several additional gloved volunteers Sept. 7, as they attempt to battle spotted knapweed. Spotted knapweed is a provincial noxious weed that is overgrowing the bank in front of Nesters. The weed is not to be confused with purple loosestrife, which is also purple and noxious. Knapweed is capable of outgrowing indigenous plant species, and of spreading very quickly. "It’s definitely been imported in here," says Paul Beswetherick, landscape supervisor for the RMOW. "Maybe a seed got caught on a vehicle and established itself, all 2,000 square metres of it, on the bank. It’s starting to spread to the other side of the road, so we want to get a hold of it before it takes over. The plant is from Europe and has no natural predators here. "Of particular concern, is the possibility of the weeds spreading to the fields in Pemberton," continues Beswetherick. "We really need a good turnout of volunteers, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. We have to harvest all the seed heads, pull the knapweed up by the roots, then bag and burn them." Once the bank is rid of knapweed, 60 sumac shrubs will immediately be planted to prevent erosion. Next spring, the municipality will introduce 300 more and by next fall, Beswetherick says the bank will be ablaze with colour. HIT has been working in the valley for the past two summers. Many participants return to help out, meet new people with diverse backgrounds, and learn about the environment. "We usually get the same people out every session," says Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager for Whistler-Blackcomb. "We’d like to continue to build on the program, last year we had five sessions, this year we’ll have eight, and next year hopefully we’ll have 10 to 12 sessions. Anybody in the community is welcome to participate, and especially in bringing forth new ideas, we’ll go with it. We’re really thankful to the volunteers who have participated." HIT meets for refreshments at Merlin’s after each work session.. For more information about HIT, call 938-7283 or 938-7220.