Sunday's Thistle Do – attacking the thistles at the lake

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Since the completion of I-70 through Mount Vernon Canyon in the mid-sixties, Evergreen has grown into a year-round community from about 2700 residents to somewhere over 40,000 residents in the 80439 ZIP code. Without a city government (that’s what it means to be unincorporated, for those who don’t know), residents have had a strong tradition for coming together to do whatever’s necessary.

We have such a time now….

There is a critical situation at the lake and wetlands that needs volunteers to help Sunday, September 11th. The thistle and knapweed infestation is choking out the wetlands and taking over. A handful of us have organized a "Thistle Do" in honor of Sylvia Brockner, who fought to protect the wetlands for bird habitat when the Lake House was being built in the early 1990s. The 11th happens to be a National Day of Service and Remembrance, so the timing is appropriate to encourage volunteerism.

We need 50 or more volunteers willing to devote two hours to wipe out any sight of thistles and knapweed at the lake and in the wetlands between 8 am and noon. Instructions will be given by the experts and teams dispatched at 8:00, 9:00, and 10:00.

Come a little earlier and enjoy breakfast-like refreshments. You may even have a chance to say hello and congratulations to Sylvia, who hopes to be there mid-morning. She’ll turn 97 next month and was just inducted into the Jefferson County Hall of Fame for her work on conservation and birding.

Suggested attire: long-sleeve shirts and long pants, heavy gloves. Come armed with your own pruners if you have them. There will be some available for loan.

Those who find it difficult to bend over and cut should not be deterred. Volunteers are needed to hold the bags for those who do the cutting.

Carpool if you can, as parking places at the lake are always at a premium on Sundays.  Look for signage in the picnic area.

No need to RSVP – just show up.


For 15 years volunteers did this job religiously, but they wore out a few years ago and turned to just doing weed education. With little being done since then, the thistles have taken over with the enthusiasm of teenagers throwing a house party while their parents are away.  

Pictured below are some of the faithful.  My hat's off to them and others who have done so much over the years to make our community a better place.  Most people didn't know they were even doing this job and never thought about weeds or what it took to keep them under control, especially without a municipal government.  Others just took it for granted that they'd always do it.  One way or another, they never got enough credit for what they did.

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The lake and wetlands are a combined responsibility of Denver Mountain Parks; the Evergreen Park and Rec District; and the Evergreen Metro District, which uses the lake as a water source. Evergreen Lake has become the focal point of the Evergreen community; and hundreds of us enjoy it for walks, birding, and attending concerts. It’s our responsibility to help keep our pride and joy looking good.

Plucking thistle heads and removing the plants from view won’t cure the problem. It’s ongoing. But for right now, “this’ll do.” It would be a wonderful community service project for many groups to join forces twice each year – in May and again in August – to keep this under control. A two-hour commitment can make a big difference when there are plenty of people to help.

Going forward….

If you can't make it Sunday, start a habit of cutting the heads off thistles when you walk the trails in our Open Space parks, and help your HOAs put together a weed-awareness campaign.

There are other public places that could use help keeping weeds in tow. Elk Meadow and Alderfer Three Sisters are two examples.  Here's a great opportunity to offer a play on words when it comes to talking about "weed" in Colorado.

The worn-out weeders who worked tenaciously to protect the wetlands may be tired, but they’d be energized to know others are willing to take over. They can teach the next generation of Evergreen weedies. Talk to one of the leaders at the Thistle Do if you’re connected to groups of young or younger people who might get involved going forward.

I just know Evergreen has plenty of proud citizens who'd like to step up and help. 

After all, it's what we do here.