This year’s second annual roadside cleanup will take place from Thursday, April 27, through Sunday, April 30. Event organizers Paul Green, Libby Levison, Bryan McClain, and Elizabeth Ruark have coordinated the event with the Department of Public Works, which has agreed to pick up the bags of trash along the roads on Monday, May 1.
Harvard residents can volunteer by signing up at goo.gl/d50vXh. Like last year, the roads in town have been divided into half-mile segments. Four people can sign up for each segment of road. In a recent interview, Green suggested that volunteers who have signed up for a particular location form teams and coordinate their activities so they can do the cleanup together. A few new segments have been added to this year’s effort, including the playing fields, the town beach, and, for those with canoes, the Nashua River at the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge.
Volunteers can pick up trash bags and gloves at the Harvard Congregational Church on Wednesday, April 26, from 2 to 4 p.m., and on Saturday, April 29, from 8 a.m. to noon. Green is encouraging volunteers to use the bags provided by organizers. They are bright yellow and easy for the DPW to spot for pickup. If volunteers do need to use their own trash bags, he recommended making sure that some of the bright yellow bags are placed with them so they aren’t missed during the Monday, May 1, pickup.
This year organizers have added an option to sort recyclable materials into separate bags. These bags are a translucent blue and can be picked up with the yellow trash bags. Green said that the types of recyclables that can be collected will be limited to glass, plastic bottles, and metal cans. While the Transfer Station accepts paper for recycling, Green said that for this effort, the paper that has been sitting out in the environment may not be suitable for recycling and should be placed with the trash.
An invasive garlic mustard plant on display at a Town Meeting booth about the roadside cleanup, April 27–30. (Photo by Lisa Aciukewicz)
Also new to this year’s effort is the addition of a garlic mustard pull. The garlic mustard plant is an invasive species that grows well in the disturbed, sandy soils along the public roadways. According to the garlic mustard fact sheet created by the Harvard Conservation Commission and available on the town website, this plant crowds out native plant species needed by native insects and wildlife and is poisonous to butterfly larvae. It is thought that it was brought by European settlers, and its reproduction is not controlled by any native species of plant or animal. It is aggressive and spreads rapidly. The best way to control it is to remove as many plants as possible in April and May before it goes to seed. Green says that volunteers should pull the plants out by the roots and place them in the yellow trash bags. If the plants are left on the roadside, they can still produce seeds. The Conservation Commission’s fact sheet shows pictures of the garlic mustard plant during its stages of development.
More than 200 people participated in last year’s cleanup and collected more than 250 bags of trash. Green said that during last year’s cleanup some volunteers found a few items that could not be dealt with easily. Along one stretch of Littleton Road, several items of large furniture, including a sofa and several chairs, were located. Along another stretch of road some volunteers found syringes (without needles). Green said there is no need for volunteers to deal with very large or potentially dangerous items; let the organizers know where the items are located and the DPW will be notified.
Ragweed: A historical rout
The townwide garlic mustard pull scheduled for Thursday, April 27, through Sunday, April 30, is not the first all-out campaign Harvard has waged against an annoying weed. In the spring of 1939, the Garden Club of Harvard, under the leadership of Mary Abbot, founder of the club and an avid conservationist, launched a two-day battle against ragweed. School children were enlisted to work alongside adults in ridding the roadsides and fields of this scourge. The spoils of the war: 460 bushels of ragweed.
To inspire the army of children, Clara Sears, founder of Fruitlands Museum and an active member of the Garden Club, wrote a song called “Routing the Witch,” part of which is:
Sound the bugle—Ring the bell,
Let the tocsin* peal the knell
Of the noxious weedy blow—
For old Witch Ragweed’s going to go.
Seize your hoe and pick and spade—
Rout her out from hill and glade—
Sneezing, wheezing, cough, and bubble—
Rid the roadsides of this trouble.
*a bell used to sound an alarm
Though this year’s “witch” is garlic mustard, which will be measured in bags, not bushels, Miss Sears’ words can still inspire to “rid the roadsides of this trouble.”
In 1938 an army of schoolchildren pose with baskets of ragweed after helping rid Harvard roadsides of the scourge. (Courtesy photo)