City gets hand on tumbling weeds

first_imgSIMI VALLEY – This city, surrounded by open hills and buffeted by Santa Ana winds in the fall, used to have a severe problem with tumbleweeds, and even has a street, Tumbleweed Avenue, named after the prickly plant. But times have changed from the days when hundreds of tumbleweeds would roll through the valley, creating traffic hazards, blocking doors and driveways and raising the brush fire danger. City officials say the problem has improved partly because they have been enforcing a tumbleweed abatement ordinance since the early 1980s, sending out notices to property owners to get rid of the boulder-sized creations or have liens against their property for the removal costs. The city sent out notices Sept. 18. Residents have until Oct. 30 to clear their properties, and if they’re not cleared, the City Council declares the land a public nuisance, said Nancy Cole, senior code enforcement officer for the city of Simi Valley. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe Christmas Truce of 1914 proved that peace is possibleThis year, the city inspected about 300 properties and found 150 violations, she said. Costs of clearing the tumbleweeds can vary from about $50 to around $700. After the Fire Department’s brush clearance efforts each spring, tumbleweeds spring up on vacant land and open hills and can grow to about four feet in diameter. When they turn brown and break loose in the fall winds, they roll like giant beach balls, sometimes scattering their seeds for a mile or more. At their worst, they turn into giant balls of flames during brush fires, Cole said. The cowboy song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” was a Sons of the Pioneers hit in the 1940s, and although people tend to think of tumbleweeds in connection with the American West, they are not native to the United States. They somehow got here in the 1800s, apparently from Eastern Europe, and are sometimes called Russian thistle. Simi Valley historian Pat Havens said tumbleweeds used to line the railroad tracks through town and once blew so heavily around the parsonage at the Methodist Church that the doors were blocked. “It was just engulfed,” she said. Frisbie Brown, 88, grew up in a pioneer farming family in Simi Valley and said the Sons of the Pioneers’ song used to run through his head about this time of year as he cleared tumbleweeds out of his driveway at Los Angeles and Sequoia avenues. Many things in Simi Valley have gotten better over the years, including the tumbleweed problem, Brown said. Gary White, a resident of Tumbleweed Avenue since 1985, said he saw a tumbleweed in the middle of his block a few months after moving in and put it in the trash. “It was a huge tumbleweed,” he said, “but I haven’t seen one since.” Cole said the situation has improved because there is less vacant land in the city than there used to be, but also because the city and Ventura County Fire Department have been enforcing the brush clearance laws for years. “We stay on top of it,” she said. [email protected] (805) 583-7602160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more