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Time to cut the grass, say Holland Marsh farmers

Farmers say untended berms are more than just an eyesore; weeds can invade neighbouring fields, provide habitat for vermin and other pests, and block irrigation access

A group of Holland Marsh farmers have made their demand: Cut the grass!

Frustrated by the “checkerboard look” of the berms around the marsh — some landscaped and some overgrown with weeds — a group of farmers urged the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury (BWG) to help them fix the problem.

The berms — strips of land bordering the canal — are owned by individual farmers, BWG, and King Township, and there are no rules or budgets for their maintenance.

BWG council voted April 17 to request a staff report on the cost of cutting the weeds within the town’s boundary, as well as any potential legal issues.

“I do think it is important that we look at how expensive it would be, for the BWG side of the berms,” said Mayor Rob Keffer.

Initially, the Holland Marsh Growers Association requested that the Holland Marsh Drainage System Joint Municipal Services Board address the issue and have the overgrown berms cut, but the board declined.

Ward 2 Coun. Gary Baynes, who sits on the board, noted the town has the authority to cut the grass — and not only on the portions of the berms it owns.

“We’re allowed to cut any of it, if we see the need,” he said.

The problem goes beyond appearances, according to the Holland Marsh Growers Association.

The untended berms have become a source of weeds that can invade neighbouring fields, provide habitat for vermin and other pests, and block access for irrigation purposes, read a letter submitted to council from the association’s chairperson Quinten Woods.

“We are currently seeing a checkerboard look throughout the berms on the canal system,” he wrote.

The berms were built as part of the canal restoration and relocation project, completed in 2016.

To improve flood control and safety in the Holland Marsh, BWG and King Township carried out major drainage system improvements that included rebuilding berms between the open waters of the canals and the roads that ring the farmland.

But there was no money in the budget for berm landscaping and maintenance.

Some private owners have seeded the berms with grass, which they mow, and re-planted some areas with native vegetation. Some portions of the berms have been left untouched.

Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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