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Weed-filled medians on Pleasant Hill Road concerns neighbors

Workers from the Lafayette Public Works Department work to clear weeds from the median on Pleasant Hill Road. Photo Credit: Lafayette Public Works Department

This spring, Lafayette residents expressed concern that the planters in the medians separating the roads were overgrown with weeds, particularly Pleasant Hill Road, one of the city’s major thoroughfares. They said it was far worse than normal and some speculated something was amiss.

“I assume [the city] got behind [with maintenance] because there was so much rain. It rained kind of right up until the time we got warm. And by that time, the weeds were so high. So I think they had too much to do all at one time,” said resident Marilyne Armstrong.

They were right. 

“There have been justified complaints about the weeds in the medians, definitely more this year than in past years,” said Michael Moran, the Lafayette director of engineering and public works. “I became Public Works director early in 2015, and have worked for the city since 1997, and this is the worst week I can remember.” 

There are many reasons for the spike in weed growth, including this spring’s weather patterns as well as safety priorities. 

“This year’s weather has been the perfect storm for weed growth,” said Moran. “Late rains followed by warm weather has helped to repopulate our weeds in medians where the crew had already removed them, doubling the work effort for the year at those locations.”

Teams from the Public Works Department, which is in charge of regulating and maintaining the medians throughout the town, also spent multiple weeks “assisting Contra Costa County fire’s contractors with pruning and clearing trees and vegetation along three evacuation routes in Lafayette when they would typically be full-time working on weed abatement,” Moran explained. 

Moran said that while his department tries to maintain weed growth in the medians primarily for aesthetic reasons, dry weeds “can provide fuel for wildfire should one occur.”

Moran also noted that since his team doesn’t use chemicals, they must hand pull all of the weeds, which can take much more time. This season, the Public Works Department had crews working overtime and hired temporary landscapers to help.

The weed growth wasn’t limited to Pleasant Hill Road. “Unfortunately, other medians throughout Lafayette are also overgrown with weeds, but our crew is now diligently working to catch up and get them under more control,” Moran said.

“We are planning to add a new layer of mulch to our medians that will help suppress weed growth in the future and will also help retain irrigation moisture and reduce our water use,” Moran said. “The first batch of mulch will be placed in June and the second batch of mulch will be placed by the end of August.”

*Additional resources:

Grace Gallacher is an 11th grader at Acalanes High School in Lafayette.

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