Herbicide Use Curbed Near Bike Path

Published 05/07 2014 06:36PM

Updated 05/07 2014 06:45PM

MONTPELIER, Vt. - All across the state, herbicides are sprayed along roads, power lines, and train tracks to keep weeds away. That includes train tracks in Montpelier that run right along the bike path.

"It’s a heavily used stretch along the tracks, both by pedestrians, bicyclists, a lot of kids in there, it runs by schools," says Montpelier resident John Snell.

With so many people nearby, the use of chemicals leaves Snell and other people concerned.

"It’s probably a better thing to avoid an area like this, especially where it travels by the farmers market," said Jedediah Hock, another Montpelier resident who frequents the bike path.

Those concerns, aired at a Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council meeting Tuesday, led to action. The railroad company agreed to stop using the chemicals for a year, but people now have to find a safe alternative.

"We need to find solutions that work for them, as well as for us," Snell said.

Now some want to know, if the state is willing to facilitate this type of agreement between Montpelier and the railroad, why not elsewhere?

The Agency of Agriculture says the state has looked at pesticide alternatives in the past, such as using fire to get rid of weeds.

"That was a slow process, and we did get data, but it wasn't going to work for the entire state," Cary Giguere of the Agency of Agriculture said.

Snell hopes this Montpelier experiment can lead to more widely applicable and safer options.

"We're experimenting on a small, two mile stretch of road. If we could ramp that up and have it work everywhere I don't think they'd argue with that." 

The state agrees.

"I think all the parties that are involved are committed to exploring alternatives, and like I said, this is the perfect section of rail to do that," Giguere said.

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