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City taking proactive approach to control unsightly weeds

The foam, which is made from natural plant oils and sugars, insulates the water/stream and ensures that weeds are exposed to heat long enough to be killed

Less than one year after a citizen-led movement with a mission to rid North Bay of an overgrowth of weeds along its major roadways, the City of North Bay has re-tooled and joined the fight with a system it hopes will prove efficient enough to be a reduction in the workforce hours it would take to pull them manually.

"We’re tackling weed control on certain streets in the City this summer using a piece of equipment by Foamstream which utilizes steam and a biodegradable foam," says Communications Officer Gord Young (see photo above).

The foam, made from natural plant oils and sugars, insulates the water/steam and ensures that weeds are exposed to heat long enough to be killed.

"This was one of the products evaluated by our staff last year. It was important that we find an eco-friendly option, given that herbicides are harmful to the environment," adds Young.

A citizen's letter directed to North Bay City Council in August 2021 and shared with BayToday brought the weed issue to the forefront. 

The author included photos of various infestations along city streets and asked whether the weeds embarrassed the council members. 

"They certainly embarrass me. It's pretty hard to attract tourism or instill civic pride when this is the best the City can do," the citizen wrote. "While travelling the streets of our city I have become increasingly annoyed at the complete lack of upkeep, especially with regard to weed growth." 

See related: Volunteer group, fed up with unsightly weeds, will pull for North Bay

The City of North Bay sought solutions as the anti-weed campaign gained momentum. Public Works crews were tasked with using street sweepers to attack the weeds but that did not pan out. The focus shifted to finding an environmentally-friendly and more cost-effective option.

"Curbside weed control has admittedly been a challenge as we are only able to spray herbicides on noxious weeds and deploying staff with trimmers has proven costly, time-consuming, and resource-heavy," advised Young late last summer.  

In mid-September 2021, a volunteer group met downtown to address the situation themselves and this group of North Bay citizens and business owners used a weed-pulling event as a launch for Vision 2025.

"The point is to beautify our city by bringing businesses and citizens together because North Bay will be celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2025 and we want to give ourselves a five-year period to beautify the city and maybe bring some community events and revive the city depending on the future," said North Bay businessman and event organizer Alexandre Caron.

Many weeds along Lakeshore Drive and its side streets went unchecked last summer and survived into fall (see photo above) and beyond. The City is hopeful this approach will show positive results.

"Funding to purchase the Foamstream was included in the 2022 budget," says Young. "It will be used on a limited basis this summer on Lakeshore Drive (including the overpass), Main Street and Memorial Drive. Staff will be tracking how many applications will be required throughout the summer months."