More than 40 people attended a meeting Tuesday, May 16, to give Viroqua city leaders input on whether to pull or spray weeds that grow through sidewalk cracks and along curbs. About 20 people spoke — one was in favor of spraying and the rest want the weeds pulled, as they have been the past few years.
“I want to thank you for not spraying weeds for two years so we could look at different options,” Jenny Cain said. “For the last two years on my block we get together for a barbecue and we also pull weeds. It works well and it’s a nice way to connect.”
Cain said a questionnaire for the Viroqua Volunteer Weed Brigade has begun circulating, and people are interested in donating money to close the gap to cover the cost of hiring someone to pull weeds.
“I assume the main concern of the council is the cost,” Cain said.
KJ Jacobson also spoke in favor of the city continuing to pull weeds, rather than spraying them with herbicide.
She said as of May 16, 45 people had expressed interest in being part of the Viroqua Volunteer Weed Brigade.
“I am confident if the city promotes it, they will get more of a response,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said 29 respondents would be willing to volunteer to be called for the Weed Brigade to weed anywhere in the city. She said of the 45 people who responded, 34 were homeowners and 11 were renters. Respondents also indicated they would weed their neighbors’ curb and street area at least twice during the growing season if the neighbors were unable. She said no one indicated they would like assistance with weeding. The minimum commitment to join the brigade is to weed one’s own curb twice per growing season.
“The city could promote the fact they have a Volunteer Weed Brigade and it could build community to reduce the cost of hand weeding,” Jacobson said.
Patti Knower said her husband has had Lyme disease and is “vulnerable” when weeds are sprayed. “It makes him ill.”
Knower said her husband has used a variety of chemical-free methods of controlling weeds on their property, including vinegar and a propane torch. “He’s determined to take care of weeds at our house. I will do what I can to help the city to eradicate these weeds. A community effort is really exciting.”
Jessica Anderson, who operates a private Montessori school on South East Avenue, said weed pulling versus spraying is an important issue for her and her business.
“We try to provide a natural experience for the children,” she said. “What’s wrong with a little plant diversity? The kids love dandelions.”
Anderson said she could activate her parent base to weed.
Wayde Lawler said he would be happy to contribute his time “to reduce everyday exposure” of chemicals. “Look at the costs and benefits and find other ways to do this.”
Brian Wickert, an organic farmer who lives in Viroqua, reminded those in attendance, they could contact the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection to be placed on its pesticide registry so they can be contacted when there is weed spraying in their area.
“Please keep an open mind and consider alternatives,” Wickert said to the Committee of the Whole.
Theresa Marquez of La Farge, who is an executive at CROPP Cooperative, said the co-op would like to donate a high school students for the next three years to pull weeds.
“We are so passionate about not using Roundup,” Marquez said. “Go for other alternatives. We only have 10 percent of the Monarch butterflies and are losing 60 percent of our bees. We need to think of the whole ecosystem.”
Marquez said there are 800 lawsuits against Roundup. “There’s a litigation risk, an environmental risk and a health risk.”
Theresa Carey said she owns a rental property on East Decker Street and when she advertised it, within 24 hours she received 32 responses.
“They want to come to Viroqua because in their view it’s a holistic and child-friendly place...,” Cary said. “As a mom and grandma, I worry about the impact of Roundup... I implore you to consider other options. Do whatever it takes to keep us safe.”
Angie Bernstein is a mother of three.
“My concern with spray on the boulevard is not just their health, but the health of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. How will they be affected because of what we do now?”
Chris Kirkpatrick of Westby, who works in Viroqua, suggested using a propane torch in weeded areas where there isn’t asphalt, which would kill the plant and seeds. “Consider integrated approaches.”
Chuck Steinhoff spoke in favor of spraying weeds, because using the tool to dig them out of sidewalk cracks and curbs makes a groove which allows water to flow in, with no way for the water to drain, causing cracks that need to be repaired. “Roundup is everywhere. If it’s so bad, why would they sell it?”
The issue of weed pulling versus spraying will go to the City Council in June.