With the return of spring comes poison ivy at Towle Field

by Karina Coombs

Flower buds are appearing throughout Carlisle as temperatures begin to rise with the arrival of spring.  The change of season will also mean a growing awareness of poison ivy in many popular recreational spots and nowhere is that more of a concern than at Towle Field.  Ongoing maintenance of the field was discussed at the March 29 meeting of the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) with some members suggesting it was time to consider using some type of herbicide to reclaim the field.

ConsCom Chair Kelly Guarino explained that the status quo for field maintenance was to mow twice per season.  In 2012, the field was mowed five times because of the presence of both poison ivy and invasive Buckthorn.  Last year, local cattle raisers Dick Shohet and Kevin Brown also hayed five of the 16 acres at no cost to the town, but will not continue the practice in 2013 because of the poison ivy problem.  (See “Poison ivy a growing problem on Towle Field,” March 16.)

Pointing out that kids used to fly kites and play on Towle Field before it was overrun with the poisonous plant, ConsCom member Tom Brown questioned why the committee was not using herbicide, the treatment many specialists insisted was the only way to reclaim the field.  Guarino noted that various herbicides were already being used for agriculture in town so she did not see the treatment as “off the table.”  

Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard noted that she recently went to a land crops meeting where there was discussion of invasive species.  Her takeaway from the presentation was a three-step process to regain control of the land: mechanical, chemical and then allowing natural control—letting native plants come back to get control of the land.  Willard said that the process was estimated to take three years, with monitoring and a possible treatment again in five years to keep the land under control.  

ConsCom member Tom Brownrigg, while not opposed to using herbicide, suggested first conducting an experiment and treating a smaller section of the field to see how well it worked, before spending the money to cover the entire field, mentioning an earlier quote for $5,000.  Because reclaiming the field would be considered restoration instead of maintenance, ConsCom member Luke Ascolillo noted it might qualify for Community Preservation Act funding.  

Guarino suggested finding out what it would cost to treat the field and then applying for the funds at a later date.  ConsCom will also schedule and publicize a Towle Field Reclamation Day for the public to attend and discuss issues and concerns regarding the field. ∆