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Forum, Aug. 8: Poison Parsnips, Co-op Plaudits; Rethinking Mideast Headlines; The Mascoma River Greenway

Poison Parsnip, Co-op Plaudits

To the Editor:

Odd bedfellows, perhaps — a toxic invasive plant and the oft-discussed (of late) Co-op Food Stores. But Upper Valley residents should know about this noxious relative of our beloved carrot, and how the Co-op recently took quick action to stem its spread.

Many of us are familiar with plants in the umbellifer family, such as native Queen Anne’s Lace, which now graces many roadways and meadows. A number of staple food plants belong to this family: celery, dill, cilantro, carrot, fennel, parsnip and parsley, to name a few. However, a few non-native umbellifers have also taken hold in Vermont and New Hampshire, and are choking some areas. These include giant hogweed, wild chervil and poison parsnip. All three are native to Eurasia and were introduced to North America, accidentally or purposely.

All are capable of out-competing native grasses, wildflowers and other plants of open upland habitats. And, the hollow stems and leaves of all three species produce a sap that is toxic to humans, causing burns to the skin which can be severe and are exacerbated by exposure to sunlight.

I recently became aware of a dense infestation of poison parsnip in the meadows surrounding the Dresden athletic fields and Co-op community garden along Route 5 in Norwich. The yellow, umbrella-like flowers on these plants, which may reach 3-4 feet in height, attract both the human eye and pollinating insects, but they proliferate at the expense of more desirable native species. A few vigilant souls in the Upper Valley have adopted a crusade against this runaway invader, which must be mowed before going to seed.

Many poison parsnip plants are now turning brown, a signal that the window for action is rapidly closing. As the plant dies and wilts, its mature seeds are easily dispersed. At that point, usually in early August, mowing is counter-productive, and control becomes a manual process of pulling entire plants or selective cutting to collect the seed-laden heads.

Where does the Co-op fit into this picture? After noticing that the Dresden meadows had been mowed two weekends ago (I’m not sure this had anything to do with poison parsnip control), I observed that uncut strips of weedy vegetation bordering the Co-op community garden and across the grassy parking lot to the north were still rife with parsnip. I immediately both called and emailed the Co-op to relay my concerns, urging them to mow these areas as soon as possible. Within hours, I received an email from Ken Davis of the Co-op’s Education Department, thanking me and promising to alert the appropriate staff person. Two days later, the mowing was done, thoroughly and expertly. I happened to stop by while it was taking place, and spent 15 minutes talking with the mower operator, Tom Guillette, the Co-op’s facilities manager. He couldn’t have been more friendly or forthcoming.

Two points here: (1) Poison parsnip is an invasive plant that warrants stringent control. Repeated, targeted mowing is the optimum control practice. Urge your town to take decisive action against this noxious plant (and others), incorporating control measures into roadside vegetation management plans; (2) The Co-op deserves thanks for its prompt, conscientious response to a community problem. I was truly impressed.

Chris Rimmer


Giraffe Story Was a Gaffe

To the Editor:

How disappointing it was to see on the second page of the paper an article about the death of a giraffe in Africa (“Giraffe Dies After Head Hits Bridge,” Aug. 1). There are so many other possible stories you could have used to fill that space ... perhaps even good stories about local people or a picture of local people. Time and again you publish pictures of people or views or buildings in other states, or stories about them,when there should be plenty to choose from right here at home. Don’t we already have enough bad news? Amazingly poor taste.

Blakeney Bartlett


What’s In a Headline?

To the Editor:

A recent letter writer to the Valley News criticized the pro-Israeli bias in a recent headline about the conflict in Gaza, but then suggested a few alternatives that merely skewed the bias in favor of Palestinians (“Rewriting Gaza Headlines,” Aug. 6). What’s a headline writer to do? One easy solution would be to recycle the same headline over and over: “More bad stuff happens in the Middle East,” which is generally accurate, covers a wide swath of intractable problems and represents what most people in this country think subconsciously while skimming past these stories on the way to the sports pages or funnies.

Philip Glouchevitch


Beyond the Bias in Palestine

To the Editor:

Regarding alleged “media bias” in recent headlines about the fighting in Gaza, Shawn Donovan’s Aug. 6 letter offers alternative wording to capture the “complicated” truth underlying this tragic conflict (“Rewriting Gaza Headlines,” Aug. 6), I submit that the unbiased truth lies bare for everyone to see in the gripping photographs published under recent Valley News headlines: a wounded, crying Palestinian baby; Gazan homes, mosques, and U.N. facilities destroyed; families grieving on both sides.

As a Jew, it tears my heart and soul to witness any violence and injustice in the name of Israel. And yet: How to prevent violence and redress injustice when Israel’s very right to exist is denied by enemies known to shelter and strike from behind noncombatants?

Until the peacemakers on both sides take charge and prevail upon the violent and unjust in their midst, Gaza and Israel will never know peace.

Nicole Cormen


The Greenway Is Moving Along

To the Editor:

There have been recent articles in the Valley News and other publications referring to the Mascoma River Greenway, an extension of the Northern Rail Trail from its present terminus at the Carter Community Building in Lebanon to locations in West Lebanon. When completed in 2016, the MRG will be a 10-foot-wide, four-mile-long, paved off-road trail, reserved for non-motorized transportation and recreation. It will follow abandoned rail beds by the Mascoma River as it meanders from downtown Lebanon to locations in West Lebanon, including the Powerhouse Mall area.

The greenway will also serve as the Lebanon/West Lebanon segment of the Upper Valley Loop Trail, a 16-mile biking route linking Hanover, Norwich, White River Junction and Lebanon. It will be the first portion of the trail to move bikers off auto roads. The MRG will also connect to the 59-mile Northern Rail Trail, allowing access to Enfield, Canaan and points south.

The exciting news about the MRG project is that during the quiet phase of its fund-raising campaign, the greenway coalition has raised $1.6 million toward its $2.3 million goal. An Upper Valley donor will contribute another $200,000 when the coalition receives its next $50,000 in contributions, a very generous 4-1 match.

We on the campaign committee hope that you’ll consider making a one-time donation or a three-year pledge to help us complete the greenway by 2016. For information about how to donate, progress to date on the project and how to volunteer, please visit the website: mascomagreenway.com.

Lorraine Kelly

Greenway Campaign Steering Committee

West Lebanon