1910 Kalispell Ordinance: Noxious Weeds
I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share at least one ordinance from each year. This week’s post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1910 about noxious weeds (this is the second ordinance from 1910 worth sharing).
Ordinance #220 which was approved in June 1910 had to do with noxious weeds. For those not familiar with the terminology, noxious weeds are plants that a governing authority has decided are harmful to crops, ecosystems, humans or livestock. Because of that, rules are put in place as to what specific weeds are noxious, and what needs to happen to those plants.
This particular ordinance in 1910 mentioned that Canada Thistle, Russian Thistle and Scotch Bull Thistle as well as the common dandelion were declared “common nuisances.” As such, city employees were directed to destroy any of these plants that were on streets, avenues, boulevards, parks or in any other public places.
Landowners were also directed to remove these plants, either on their own, or as directed by the city employees. If owners did not remove them, there would be an up-to-$50 fine per day that they were not removed. And if the city had to remove them FOR the owner, the expense to do so would be attached to their property as a lien, payable with the next tax bill.
What is interesting about this is that residents of Kalispell objected to identification of dandelions as noxious weeds or common nuisances.
The following May, The River Press, a Fort Benton Montana newspaper included an article called “Cherish the Dandelion.” No author was listed so I’m not sure who was responsible for the article. It starts with “The annual reappearance of the dandelion “in our midst” is accompanied by the usual crop of specifics for its extermination.” The writer goes on to say many parts of Montana try to eliminate the plants with “relentless fury” but the weeds keep coming back every year. Potential recommendations for permanently removing them had included releasing ducks to fight them, although no plan was provided as to the proportion of ducks to dandelions! The author goes on to suggest that the only reason the dandelions are being removed is because they are so “common” and that if they had been lovingly grown on purpose everyone would have treasured them.
He or she goes on to ask “Do not the Kalispell people like greens? Do not they enjoy the rare beauty of the dandelion blossom? It is more to be admired than the tulip; it is brighter and more cheerful than the crocus; it is hardier and more enduring that the pansy; it is the chummiest blossom there is. Why not make friends with the dandelion? Study the plant and you’ll find much about it to admire.”
The writer continues in the same vein and ends by suggesting that Kalispell change their focus. That they purposefully cultivate dandelions, place them in the best areas of the lawn, water them frequently, keep the insects away and give them tons of care and attention. “In brief, the happiest solution of the dandelion difficulty is to kill it with kindness.”
Articles about dandelions appeared on a regular basis in the local newspapers for years. In 1911, there was an article in the Whitefish Pilot which indicated a housewife in Iowa found that dandelions made a strong wine (before that, no one was that impressed with dandelion wine). She had accidentally spilled yeast into a jug of dandelion wine. She left it alone for a month and when she tried some, she realized the yeast increased the potency and it was quite good!. A different article in a different paper indicated dandelions could be used in salads or cooked as a delicious dish. The following year, there was another article in the Whitefish Pilot that spoke again about how difficult it was to get rid of dandelions. The Daily Missoulan in 1914 had yet another article about possible do’s and do not’s of eliminating the yellow weeds.
So where are we now in terms of the dandelion debate in Kalispell?
Well, somewhere along the line, Kalispell took that first author’s advice. While there are still many plants that are considered noxious weeds that Kalispell homeowners need to eliminate (including thistle), the common dandelion is not one of them.
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