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Pilot Butte’s noxious, flammable weeds growing out of control

Park managers working to remove them, cite COVID-19 staff cuts

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ)-- If you frequent Pilot Butte to hike or cycle, you've probably noticed the large amount of vegetation, but one thing growing out of control is the weeds. And as you might expect, staffing cuts, due to COVID-19 impacts, are at the root of the problem.

It's so bad, the city of Bend issued a $150 citation to the Oregon State Parks' Tumalo Management Unit in charge of the state scenic viewpoint for noxious and flammable weeds. 

Noxious weeds are non-native, aggressive plants that can destroy native plants and habitats. Oftentimes they bring in new insects, suck up scarce water and can spread rapidly in some areas.

One viewer shared with NewsChannel 21 that he noticed noxious weeds spreading on Pilot Butte alongside the trails, the backside of the butte where houses are and even along the playground.

Weeds found around the butte such as the yellow Dalmatian toadflax and the purple knapweed can be harmful to livestock and prevent the growth of other plants.

Park Manager Joe Wanamaker told NewsChannel 21 Thursday that COVID- 19 has affected their staffing this year.

"The damage done by the pandemic is that we we've had a significant number of layoffs in the agency," Wanamaker said. "One of them happened to be our natural resource specialist, who was doing most of the spraying over at the butte. She had organized several volunteer weed pulls."

The park is operating with about 50 percent of its usual staff and simply doesn't have the bodies to keep up with the weed problem, he said. 

Wanamaker said they've also noticed many people in the area have started pulling the weeds themselves, and they're grateful for the effort to assist in solving the problem.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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