Bidwell Park is gigantic. With the limited funding of our Parks Department the work of volunteers is heavily leaned on to augment the department’s upkeep efforts. Five years ago, Susan Mason moved to Chico from Santa Rosa ("I loved Bidwell Park—that was one of the top reasons for moving here."), and now the research specialist can regularly be found hunched over patches of overgrown invasive plants. As president of the newly formed Friends of Bidwell Park organization, Mason and her volunteers are working on a patch in the Five-Mile Recreation area, yanking out infestations of privits every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
How did you get started pulling weeds in the park?
Last April we had formed Friends of Bidwell Park. We knew invasive weeds were a big problem in the park, and we also wanted to see what we could do to start recruiting more volunteers to help in the park.
What’s a privit?
That’s this [pulls forward a stalk from small forest of 10-foot-tall saplings]. This is called the Japanese privit, and it’s spread by seeds. If you’ve ever come out and had your car covered with blue bird droppings, that’s privit seeds. It’s all over Chico. It’s on Butte County’s Most Invasive Plants list.
What’s the problem with it?
Nothing else grows. It’s not a very desirable plant, plus it just spreads prolifically.
How’s this operation work?
People just show up, if they have a couple hours. The thing that’s really been surprising to me is how much of a social experience it is to come out. A lot of the people who come are new to Chico. … For somebody who’s looking for some volunteer work where there’s more interaction with people, it’s a great way to [do it].
Can we get a demonstration of the Weed Wrench?
These wrenches come in four sizes. This is the medium size—the big one weighs 25 pounds, and you put it around the root, and put your foot there and it grabs it and [out it comes]. Actually, it’s really fun. It’s really satisfying to rip out this plant. Especially if your car’s ever been bombed by privits.
This is way bigger than goat work.
It’s a different kind of project. The goats nibble things down, but they don’t get the roots out. They need a variety of ways to control weeds in the park.
Ever find anything?
The other day I found a watch, and even though it was the wind-up kind it was still running. We find tons of trash. We probably could fund our program with all the recycling stuff we find.
For info. on volunteering contact Susan Mason at 892-1666 or email@example.com,