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Sugar House Journal

Volunteers purge spurge in Tanner Park

May 31, 2017 14h59 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Employees from Jet Blue helped pull myrtle spurge at Tanner Park. (Natalie Mollinet\City Journals).

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

On Earth Day 2017, the Lowell Bennion Center Community Service Center, community members and Jet Blue employees, joined forces and helped rid Tanner Park of myrtle spurge, a noxious weed that is outcompeting native plants and is harmful to humans, pets and surrounding plant life. Some 130 people came to pull weeds.

“This is the particular site that Salt Lake City assigned us,” Bryce Williams, the community outreach coordinator for the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center with the University of Utah, said. “Various community councils across the east side of Salt Lake City are at different locations, but the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center was assigned to Tanner Park.”

To make the event interesting, the Parks and Public Lands Department in Salt Lake City put together a friendly competition to see which community councils and partners involved could collect the most myrtle spurge. The city compared overall weight of garbage bags collected and the wining team was given the title of “Top Myrtle Spurge Purger 2017.”

“I feel like we all as volunteers just try to get as much as we can,” Janet Tran, a student involved with the Bennion Lowell Service Center, said.

The event was part of the Lowell Bennion’s Earth Day celebration. Volunteers showed up at Tanner Park around 8:30 a.m. They were given a brief explanation of what to weed by members of the Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands and then went to work.

“They are all removing that myrtle spurge,” Williams said. “They’re on on their hands and knees just ripping it all out.”

Last year, the East Bench Community Council won the award with 973 pounds of myrtle spurge, and this year they kept the title, pulling out 1,582 pounds. Capitol Hill came in a close second with 1,515 pounds of spurge, two people from the East Central community pulled 537 pounds and the Greater Avenues group yanked out 855 pounds. In total, city volunteers pulled 9,385 pounds of spurge.

“I’ve been getting calls all week about people now pulling it out of their own yards and nearby natural areas,” said Sherilyn Hirschi with Salt Lake City’s Parks and Public Lands. “I think we’re all winners.”

Myrtle spurge is a problem in Salt Lake County and was labeled as a noxious weed by the Salt Lake County Weed Board.

“It’s been extremely positive as far as the Bennion Center goes,” Williams said. “We try to instill life-long civil engagement and just are completely amazed with the people that want to remove invasive species.”

“I really enjoy the Saturday service projects,” Tran said. “They’re fun volunteering events and the Bennion Center does everything. It’s a nice low-key volunteer service opportunity for anyone that wants to do service. They feed you and provide the materials.”