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Garlic Mustard Games: Summit County locals help control noxious weeds

Summit Cooperative Weed Management Areas
Volunteers participate in the Garlic Mustard Games.

The Garlic Mustard Games and other competitions to remove noxious weeds in Summit County have begun. Here's more on the efforts to preserve natural resources and reduce wildfire risk.

Summit Cooperative Weed Management Areas
The noxious weed garlic mustard.

The nonprofit Summit Cooperative Weed Management Areas identifies and eliminates noxious weeds in the county. Project manager Sara Jo Dickens said noxious weeds are different from regular weeds. A regular weed is a “plant out of place,” while a noxious weed threatens the economy, including agricultural and recreational economies. Dickens said noxious weeds can also impact safety and natural resources.

“Garlic mustard is an example because it does produce this chemical that shuts down germination of other plants,” she said. “So we lose plant diversity, it impacts our soils.”

Since Garlic Mustard weakens plants around it, it can also make trees more susceptible to wildfires and deadly diseases.

“The big concern is that it suppresses the fungus,” Dickens said. “These fungus species are incredibly important to tree health, they help them especially in drought.”

Dickens said the cooperative’s goal is to control noxious weeds and start regrowing damaged areas. To aid this effort, the cooperative hosts various programs and contests. One competition is the Garlic Mustard Games, which encourages community members to pull the weed and reduce herbicide use. Dickens said garlic mustard is one of the most abundant noxious weeds in the county, with about 700 acres on the west side.

“There's no way we can hand-pull all of that,” she said. “But I will say that in the last three years, the Garlic Mustard Games has gotten rid of over 16,000 pounds.”

Summit Cooperative Weed Management Areas
Noxious weed pull station on a trail.

To participate in the games, county residents and visitors must make a team, pull garlic mustard and weigh each haul. Teams then submit the weight online to add it to their total.

Teams can pull weeds at cooperative events, on their own property or use trailside pull stations. The trailside pull stations are marked with little orange boxes, a sign and bags to pull weeds. Teams can log their totals and leave bags by the box. There are similar boxes for other noxious weeds as well.

Teams that pull the most garlic mustard per person win. The top volunteers will get a food truck party at the end of the season. Dickens said participants also have the chance to get prizes, like Dakine backpacks and High West Distillery meals, at pull events.

The Garlic Mustard Games run from May to August.

Here's a list of Garlic Mustard Games events:

  • Armstrong Trail: June 29
  • Boo Radley Trail/Poison Creek Art Park: June 30
  • Copper Moose Farms: June 13
  • Glenwood Cemetery/Crescent Ridge HOA: June 22
  • Har Shalom/ McLeod Creek: TBD
  • Moose Hollow Residents: TBD
  • Pinebrook HOA: TBD
  • Creekside Park: July 13
  • Summit Park Dumpster Days: July 13-14
  • Spiro: June 24