My last column concerned the Zombies of Talbot County—those ubiquitous roadside trees and shrubs that are being swallowed whole by invasive vines and parasitic overgrowth. They are not just unsightly, disfiguring our landscape, but are seriously damaging or killing many trees outright.
Response to that article, as well as a little outreach of my own, confirms that everyone sees the problem, some are taking small, isolated steps to address invasives here and there, but there is no one is really committed to or responsible for an effective, meaningful program that will change much of anything for Talbot County.
For example, Easton Utilities is attentive to the problem. Talbot’s Master Gardeners, under Lisa Ghezzi’s leadership, have attacked invasives at the Bay Street pond in concert with the Waterfowl Chesapeake, with more planned. But according to the Superintendent of the County Roads Department, Talbot “has neither the staffing nor the funding” to do a thing about invasives other than remove fallen trees and debris. As to SHA, the District Engineer in Chestertown reported it has a small budget to deal with invasives along State roads in every county, and they contract out a bit of that work yearly. The Agricultural Extension Service has information on the web that could be useful to homeowners, and they flagged the “Maryland Invasive Species Council,” an excellent if passive resource.
And in different ways the work of ShoreRivers, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Eastern Shore Land Conservancy all have programs that intersect with the problem of invasives. In short, everyone seems to have a little piece of the issue—but the right hand does not know what the left is doing, no one owns the problem, and as things stand I see no one who is going to fix the problem in Talbot County.
Now I know that invasives overtaking Talbot’s roadside trees does not constitute an existential problem. It’s not climate change—the topic of another recent article—and the earth will spin on its axis whether or not we attack this blight. Some folks will say to hell with it–half of Talbot is going to be underwater in 50 years anyway. Or it’s just not that important.
But there is, in my opinion, a plan that could fix this completely in say five years time, pretty much eliminating scourge on Talbot County roadsides. No, I am not suggesting we all pull on our jeans and meet every Saturday to clip vines (though we should each take care of our own roadside, and maybe an outing or two would be appropriate). Instead, what we need is the ZOMBIE ACTION COUNCIL, a group dedicated to a countywide, deadline-specific, large-scale effort pulling together and helping to coordinate all the responsible parties, holding them accountable in a public way, and facilitating targeted efforts wherever possible. Appended below, for anyone interested, is an outline of key aspects of the Zombie A. C.. Just a first draft, of course.
Could this really happen, could we solve this community problem? Indeed we could—if, but only if, Talbot citizens care.
And I like the idea of “ZOMBIE A. C.” tee shirts too.
Dan Watson is the former chair of Bipartisan Coalition For New Council Leadership and has lived in Talbot County for the last twenty-five years.
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