- Associated Press - Sunday, June 4, 2017

CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) - While a crowd in Cannon Beach celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the bill that preserved Oregon’s beaches for the public, John Rippey killed plants.

“That took a lot of hard work to stand up to bad interests,” he said about Oregon’s landmark 1967 Beach Bill as he methodically cut away at invasive Scotch broom plants along Ecola Creek earlier this spring. “And I figure, rather than be part of a parade, I should continue the hard work, and you can’t do that by having bonfires. You do that by getting rid of invasive species.”

Or, at least, the Cannon Beach resident says with some self-deprecation, that’s the work he’s chosen for this particular day.

A former lifeguard in Cannon Beach, Rippey is well-acquainted with efforts to protect and preserve this stretch of sand - as well as the people who flock here in droves to enjoy it. But this was his first time volunteering with the North Coast Watershed Association, which has organized Scotch broom removal efforts around the creek for several years.

Their work around the creek and in nearby Les Shirley Park has started to pay off. Rippey is tearing up young plants; he doesn’t have to tackle the older, established bushes that confronted volunteers in past efforts. Watershed coordinator Brooke Stanley points to wild rose that has started to take over areas along a sandy beach approach once dominated by Scotch broom.

“Seeing it change is really amazing,” she said.

It has taken a combination of longtime volunteers and new volunteers like Rippey to bring about this change. Nothing against the plants, they say. In fact, the first time most of them saw Scotch broom, they thought, “What lovely yellow blooms!” In May, whole sections of the coast light up - like someone has swiped the hills with a yellow highlighter - as Scotch broom transforms from a drab shock of branches and leaves into an attractive, highly productive flowering shrub.

It is a plant that flourishes in disturbed soil and quickly displaces native plants and trees, says Nadia Gardner, a longtime volunteer with local efforts along Ecola Creek. Conservationists and watershed groups can track its rapacious growth in tangent with development projects: housing up in the hills of Seaside, on recently logged lands, alongside highways.

Once used to stabilize dunes and as an ornamental along highway corridors, the Oregon Department of Agriculture now calls it “one of western Oregon’s most widespread and costliest weeds.” The North Coast Land Conservancy declares May “broom-buster month” and organizes extensive efforts to rid their acres of the weed.

For longtime volunteer Bob Lundy, Ecola Creek was right next door. As he entered retirement and began looking for ways to get more involved in the community, he figured tearing out Scotch broom was one small way he could help.

“When I was thinking about what I was going to do after retirement, I said I don’t play golf and I don’t play cards so I’ll probably have to learn to fish.” Or surf, he amended. As it turns out, he said, “Cannon Beach will find lots of things for you to do.”

Even as he has become more involved on boards and councils and committees, he continues to help with Scotch broom removal.

“There are things that need doing. That are worth doing,” he said.

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Information from: The Daily Astorian, https://www.dailyastorian.com

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