Business

Monday, May 06 2013 05:42 PM

Tumbleweeds invade, now who's going to get rid of them?

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Greg Dounies, shop manager at Hall Letter Shop, walks past a wall of tumbleweeds he and his employees had to move into their back lot after high winds Sunday filled the front of their business at the corner of Rosedale Highway and Landco Drive with the rolling weeds. Many businesses in the area had to deal with the tumbleweeds Monday morning.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Catherine Dounies is quick to smile and proudly states she has been in business 50 years and has endured many tumbleweed invasions at her business, Hall Letter Shop, at the corner of Rosedale Highway and Landco Drive. People need to take responsibility for their property, she says of people who own land but allow the tumbleweeds to grow.

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    By John Harte / The Californian

    The wind Sunday afternoon blew a wall of tumbleweeds up against the corner of Olive and Knudsen drives large enough that it blocked the view into the 7-Eleven store from the street.

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    By John Harte / The Californian

    The combination of wind, dust and a large number of tumbleweeds, including a wall-sized pile on the corner, made driving at Olive and Knudsen drives a little tricky late Sunday afternoon. There were several near accidents (but not involving these motorists) when drivers hit their brakes to avoid blowing tumbleweeds.

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

They are prickly, dry plants that tumble away in the wind. If you're lucky, you'll dodge them while your driving down the street on a windy day.

But, you see, not everyone is lucky enough to escape the invasion after a major windstorm, like Sunday's.

Related Info

Tumbleweeds on public property

You can call the following numbers if tumbleweeds are causing a hazard on public streets:

* County Roads Department, 862-8850

* City of Bakersfield Parks and Recreation, 326-3866

The parking lot of HALL Letter Shop on Rosedale Highway was home to hundreds of tumbleweeds as owner Catherine Dounies pulled up to her business Monday morning.

Ninety-two-year-old Dounies couldn't believe her eyes when she saw so many tumbleweeds scattered along the parking lot. They'd even pushed their way into a garden the business tends in back.

"It's not fair that we have to put up with this every single year," Dounies said.

For the past 20 years, Dounies has watched tumbleweeds pass by and settle in the parking lot, costing her business time and money to remove them.

"All of our men were out there this morning picking them up and clearing the parking lot because they were just invading our place," she said.

The back door to HALL Letter Shop was cleared at 11 a.m., but there were still some tumbleweeds stuck in the apricot trees and flower bushes. At 7 a.m. Greg Dounies, the general manager of the business and son of Catherine, started hauling the large tumbleweeds to the left corner of the business.

With pitchforks and gloves, the tumbleweeds were pulled out of the garden fence and cleared from the parking lot.

"This is the worst I have seen it," Greg said as he pulled tumbleweeds from a red rose bush.

With the recent strong winds that pummeled Bakersfield, the tumbleweeds have become a nuisance not only for business owners, but also for city and county departments that usually help clear them.

In past years, tumbleweed invasions were removed in one day, but after Sunday's strong winds, it will take more time to fight against them.

"It's overwhelming and frustrating because clean-up will take more than one day and there are just a lot of them this year in general," said Jim Braudrick, superintendent of County of Kern Parks and Recreation.

Both city and county officials said that any tumbleweeds that end up on private property cannot be removed by city or county workers.

"We clear out tumbleweeds from public streets or wherever we see that an accident can happen but we do not do private property clearage," said Darin Budak, assistant director of City of Bakersfield Parks and Recreation.

Enter one local businessman who's more than happy to serve in the war against tumbleweeds.

Noah Mapstead, director of operations at TumbleGator, has been contracted through the City of Bakersfield and for two years the corporation has shredded dry and green tumbleweeds.

"We have invented technology for eradicating tumbleweeds because Kern is known for this problem," Mapstead said. "If tumbleweeds pile up, they can become a roadblock or cause major traffic accidents so the need for getting rid of them is necessary."

But some people like tumbleweeds -- at least enough to hold a festival in their honor. That's the Tumbleweed Festival in Derby Acres.

But last year there weren't any in sight for the event off Highway 33.

Would they like some for next time? Business was so brisk at the Tumbleweed Cafe Monday afternoon that they couldn't chat about the invasion that had swept through Bakersfield.

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