Now that the city of Ashland doesn't allow pesticides within 50 feet of a creek or playground, it's inviting the public to help with "hands-on weeding," pulling out invasive species and joining in a fun community event at the same time.

Now that the city of Ashland doesn't allow pesticides within 50 feet of a creek or playground, it's inviting the public to help with "hands-on weeding," pulling out invasive species and joining in a fun community event at the same time.

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, residents are invited to put on gloves, grab a hand hoe and join members of the Ashland Artisans Market and plaza shop staff on Calle Guanajuato to remove non-native English ivy, blackberries and Bermuda grass.

The Calle Park, created after devastation from the New Year's Day Flood of 1997, is watered by Ashland Creek, so the modest amount of blackberries will rapidly send out runners and get out of hand unless removed by the root, says city horticulturist Anne Thayer.

The west hillside of the niche park is carpeted with English ivy, which may be esthetic but, like blackberries, is very hardy and aggressive — and loves to climb trees, get under bark and literally choke trees to death, says Marian Telerski, a part-time city horticultural assistant and volunteer.

With a flick of the wrist, she pulls a long runner off a deciduous tree, noting, "It'll grow back quickly."

The Bermuda grass, burgeoning amid city-planted vegetation, comes in with soil, says Thayer, and, like most invasive plants, can't be completely eradicated — only kept under control. Seeds from blackberries and ivy get spread rapidly in bird dung, she adds.

A new policy banning synthetic pesticides within 50 feet of streams, playground and community gardens, was adopted this week by the city Parks and Recreation Commission.

It also adopted a policy for parks of using only organic fertilizers — those containing non-synthetic ingredients, such as citric juices, vinegar and castor oil, says Lori Ainsworth, the Parks and Recreation Department's new volunteer coordinator.

She organized the cleanup, which will include litter pickup and the laying of 30 yards of bark dust on trails.

The public is also invited to a cleanup of Scenic Park, just west of Maple Street, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 12.

"With city parks becoming pesticide-free, this is an opportunity for people to keep ownership of parks," says Ainsworth."

The Parks and Recreation Department will soon have a map of parks that are pesticide-free.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.