Machines brought in to flatten phragmites at Turkey Point

Monte Sonnenberg/Delhi News Record Two unique machines manufactured in Ukraine have been brought in to flatten dead stands of phragmites in Turkey Point and elsewhere in the area of Long Point Bay. Two "Sherps" like this one made short work of 20 acres of dead phragmites in Turkey Point on March 6. From left are operator Eric Giles of St. Williams, Turkey Point Provincial Park superintendent Jeff Pickersgill, and Eric Cleland, director of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's invasive species program.

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Persistent winter conditions forced managers of the beach in Turkey Point to come up with a new strategy for removing the dead phragmites along Ordnance Avenue.

Plan B was deployed on March 6 in the form of a unique amphibious vehicle from Ukraine called “The Sherp.”

Two Sherps were floated down from Sudbury earlier last week to big-foot the dead reeds before the spring thaw arrives. Time is of the essence because hibernating species will soon emerge from their winter hiding places.

It took all day for the vehicles with large, heavy rollers behind them to flatten nearly 20 acres of dead phragmites.

When they were finished, motorists on Ordnance Avenue could actually see Long Point Bay from their vehicles for the first time in many years.

“It’s not built for phragmites, but it can move through phragmites,” said Eric Giles of Giles Restoration Services in St. Williams, one of the vehicle’s operators.

“And that’s what we need – a tool that can function in a winter-time environment.”

Phragmites is an aggressive, invasive species of reed that chokes out native vegetation while destroying wildlife habitat. It has established a large presence in the Long Point-Turkey Point area in recent years.

Conservation officials have mounted an eradication offensive that starts with the spraying of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular herbicide Roundup.

The phragmites stand in Turkey Point was sprayed last year. A machine called a Marsh Master was scheduled to cut it down but it doesn’t perform well in winter conditions because the tracks plug up with ice.

Eric Cleland, director of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s invasive species program, said it was critical to flatten the phragmites before the spring thaw. Waiting later than this could result in the death of animals and birds when time came for a controlled burn.

Cutting or flattening the stand is critical because an important part of the eradication program is secondary spraying.

Glyphosate will kill 97 per cent of phragmites where it is sprayed. However, control teams have to be able to get at the three per cent of phragmites that regenerate. If they are not dealt with the prolific phragmites will quickly grow back stronger than ever.

“Re-treatment will be required on Ordnance Avenue,” Cleland said at the scene. “We’ve had to do that everywhere we’ve treated.”

The Sherp is manufactured in Kiev and sells in North America for about $105,000 US. The machines brought to Norfolk will be engaged in flattening operations for the next several weeks.

 

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