Steamboat Springs City of Steamboat Springs public works employees this week are removing trees that died as a result of herbicide applied to kill grass and weeds near guardrails.
Public Works Director Philo Shelton said Walden-based Higo Weed Busters told the city that the herbicide it applied penetrated the soil deeper than expected and reached some tree roots.
“Our intention was to spray the weeds,” Shelton said. “With the afternoon thunderstorms, some of that spread to tree roots. It wasn’t our intention to kill trees. It was a side effect.”
Some Steamboat Springs residents have complained to the city that trees on or near their property were killed after the application, which took place in late May and early June.
Resident Cedar Beauregard said trees behind the guardrail on the bridge that runs over Soda Creek near his Pahwintah Street home were killed as a result of the herbicide application. But he said the damage doesn’t compare to what took place along Burgess Creek Road.
“I thought my bridge was bad, but I drove up Burgess Creek and it was gut-wrenching,” Beauregard said. “It’s really sad. There’s 40-foot trees and they’re looking dead.”
Resident Peter Kenney, who lives across the street from Beauregard on Princeton Avenue, also said he was disappointed to see trees killed from the herbicide application.
“Wow is all I can say,” he said.
A call to Higo Weed Busters seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.
The city removes weeds and grass near guardrails for safety reasons, Shelton said. He said many of the city’s guardrails are located on curves with minimal sight distance and it’s important to prevent growth of weeds or grass that could block them from the view of drivers.
Shelton added that weeds and grass could grow into the street and damage pavement.
He said the city chose the herbicide, as opposed to another mitigation method such as cutting down the grass and weeds, because Higo Weed Busters said it would prevent them from growing back for two or three years, which would save the city money.
Shelton said the city probably would contract with Higo Weed Busters again, which does a lot of work in Routt County, but wouldn’t use the soil herbicide in the future.
The city started removing trees Wednesday and because the process just started, Shelton said he’s not sure how much it will cost. He said the city hasn’t had conversations about asking Higo Weed Busters to reimburse the city for having to remove the dead trees.