Invasive weeds are the losers in the Garlic Mustard Games

Ecology Bridge and Summit CWMA have scheduled Garlic Mustard Games public weed pulls as a fun way to control the invasive garlic mustard in Summit County. The public can participate in scheduled events or pull weeds on their own throughout the summer competition.
Photo courtesy of Betsy Hochman

The 2022 Garlic Mustard Games, a county-wide weed pull, has begun.

The competition, which runs through August, is a fun way to control the invasive garlic mustard, said Sara Jo Dickens, owner of Ecology Bridge and manager of the Summit CWMA, the event organizers.

Ecology Bridge assists private landowners and public land managers in protecting the value of their lands, while a CWMA, an acronym for Cooperative Weed Management Areas, are nationwide organizations that help landowners control invasive weeds.



“The Summit CWMA partners with Summit County – Park City, Snyderville Basin, Deer Valley, Vail, Woodward, Utah Olympic Park, the Colony, and a ton of HOAs — all who have large amounts of land,” Dickens said. “We want to make sure we have the greatest impact on the weed and the least impact on everything else.”

Garlic mustard is a biennial noxious weed that rapidly invades areas and prevents germination and growth of native plant species, according to Dickens.



It also interrupts the soil-fungal relationships with trees that help protect them from drought, disease and beetles, and uses up nutrients in the soil, she said.

“The direct and indirect impacts of garlic mustard increase risk of wildfire, erosion and sedimentation,” she said. “So it’s important that we find ways to control the weed.”

Garlic mustard is a biennial noxious weed that rapidly invades areas and prevents germination and growth of native plant species.
Courtesy of Betsy Hochman

Another goal of the games is to educate and empower the community and reduce the use of herbicides, said Dickens, who has more than 15 years of experience in ecology, with an emphasis in plant biology, plant ecology, restoration ecology, weed ecology and plant soil interactions.

“Our approach is the integrative approach and utilizing restoration as soon as possible to reclaim the land,” Dickens said. “There are a lot of areas where we would rather preserve the diversity of wildflowers and other beneficial plant life than restore it, because restoration takes a lot of effort.”

Rules for the Garlic Mustard Games are simple, said Betsy Hochman, Ecology Bridge ecology and outreach specialist.

Competitors can form a team and pull the weeds, and the teams can be any size, she said.

Teams can go and weed anytime they want, and once they’re done, they can weigh how much they pulled and email photos to betsy@ecologybridge.comHochman said.

“We also have a survey on our website (summitcwma.org/garlic-mustard-games), and when you’re finished weeding for the day, you can enter your team name, contact information, number of team members, how many bags you pulled and uploaded photos,” she said.

To give more weed-pulling opportunities, Ecology Bridge has set up a summer community-event schedule, according to Hochman.

Dates are as follows:

• June 4 — Pinebrook Creek

• June 11 — Glenwood Cemetery and Crescent Ridge

• June 22 — PRI Open Space

• June 25 — Moose Hollow

• June 29 — Temple Har Shalom

• July 9 — Ecker Hill

• July 13 — McLeod Creek

• July 23 — Armstrong Trail

• July 27 — McLeod Creek

• July 30 — Toll Canyon

• TBA — East Canyon State Park

Each of these events will include opportunity drawings for winners, and the amounts of weeds will be included in teams’ cumulative totals that will be tallied up at the end of the season, Dickens said.

“To make things fair for teams with only one or two people, we divide the amount of garlic mustard weed pulled among how many members are in a team,” she said. “When it’s all said and done, we’ll host a food-truck party for the Top 70 weeders in September.”

Dickens had been tossing around the idea for the Garlic Mustard Games since 2018.

“I had come across a (garlic mustard weed) population on the Armstrong Trail that was about 30 acres, and set up what we called the Armstrong Challenge,” she said. “We had people come in, pull the weeds and leave them in bags along the trail.”

To facilitate the Armstrong Challenge, Ecology Bridge set up stands with bags and signs, so that people could participate anytime,” Dickens said.

“When they were done weeding, they would send me an email with pictures and tell me how many bags they filled,” she said. “We then would award them with opportunity drawings, and we had such a great turnout including bikers and tourists, so it was pretty impactful.”

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