Heavy Rains Lead To Explosion In Poison Oak Growth In Parks

NOVATO (KPIX 5) – The long, wet winter in the Bay Area is forcing some local hikers to keep a watchful eyes on trails after the heavy rains have helped poison oak flourish.

The state parks department is making plans to mitigate the nuisance.

Hikers, cyclists and dog walkers have been enjoying the breaks in the rain that have allowed for a return to outdoor activities in Novato’s Olompali State Park.

“Well, it’s great for the county and the state. It messed with my riding schedule over the winter,” said Novato resident Bruce Vecchitto.

Not only did the record-breaking rain end the drought in Northern California, but it’s caused a ton of growth in the green hills of Sonoma County.

But with any improvement comes some pitfalls.

“Poison oak, of course, is one of our big concerns; and tall grass which can be habitat for ticks,” said Sonoma County Parks Supervising Ranger Brandon Bredo.

Bredo said the extreme growth in the North Bay is keeping the parks department busy.

Not only do they have to keep poisonous plants off public trails, but the tall grass could cause wildfires if it’s not maintained.

“This year is new in that we likely have to double our efforts to mow once and then come right back out again before the big summer hits to do it one more time,” explained Bredo.

Area resident Laura Pajari knows to keep her dog Diego on leash while hiking. Dogs are often to blame for bringing the outdoors home with them in unwelcome ways.

“Yeah, I’ve actually found ticks on him,” said Pajari.

And as for avoiding poison oak? Rangers say there is a simple rule that can help hikers.

“‘Leaves of three, leave them be,’ as you’ll see the clusters that pop up out,” said Bredo. “They’re in leaflets of three so it’s easy to see that.”

The Sonoma County Parks Department is planning to bring in a herd sheep that will eat enough of the poison oak to clear the paths for hikers.

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