Poison Free Malibu, State Parks host invasive weed removal at Point Dume Natural Preserve 

On Wednesday, Aug. 9, members of Poison Free Malibu and State Parks representatives gathered at the Point Dume Natural Preserve to remove poisonous weeds. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Volunteer efforts to remove invasive plants on the point will continue monthly

The Point Dume Natural Preserve has become a popular site to hike. With the new staircase that reopened last fall, the two miles of scenic trails through grasslands, steep cliffs, and unique coastal bluffs, it allows visitors to view an island of delicate biological integrity. 

While the site has received an increase in visitors, it has also received an increase in invasive species. 

In efforts to remove invasive weeds — without the use of pesticides — Poison Free Malibu, the Malibu-based nonprofit, California State Parks representatives, and members of the community gathered at the headlands on Point Dume last week, for a new volunteer program to remove poisonous weeds from the highly sensitive area.

In just a few hours, volunteers filled up 30 trash bags with invasive weeds.

Founded by Joel and Kian Schulman, Poison Free Malibu aims to educate the public about pesticide concerns and offer viable alternatives.

“We started this back in 2012 and we’ve been going strong with these initiatives through the city on the pesticides free on the property itself, and we have a LCP that ban’s use of pesticides throughout the city which is another great initiative,” Kian Schulman said. 

Since 2014, the city has strived to eliminate environmentally harmful poisons from within city limits and has taken numerous measures to restrict their use. In 2019, the city approved an Earth Friendly Management Policy, which governs pest management on city-owned, managed or leased property and bans the use of rodenticides on city property and prohibits their use in connection with any contract with the city.

Last month, the Malibu City Council approved the LCP Local Implementation Plan to implement Land Use Policy 3.18 regarding the use of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and rodenticides, citywide.

“The use of these pesticides is very harmful to the environment, to the environmental habitat, to the watershed, to our wildlife, to our pets, to our entire community, so it’s poison to everything,” Schulman said.

In April of this year, residents and Malibu city council members raised concerns after seeing a notice at the Point Dume headlands of pesticides being used along the walking trail. After questioning, State Parks confirmed it was spraying the site with the pesticide Round-Up.

After receiving the notice, Joel and Kian said despite State Parks receiving a lot of funding and pressure from chemical manufacturers to maintain the status quo, they hope to educate the State Parks staff about alternative choices to poison.

Joel Schulman said the consciousness has increased in awareness beyond Malibu to surrounding cities. 

“A lot has to do with the mountain lions, and there’s a lot of activity like in the City of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and the Wildlife Crossing had a lot of help with increasing the consciousness of wildlife also, so we’ve seen it over the years, over the decade with people taking action,” he said.

Member Jeff Louks brought a few of his gardeners to help with last week’s weeding.

“We just thought we needed an extra push, so we got a great team,” Louks said. “It’s a ripple effect. It started here in Malibu with this group, and then everyone started questioning and realizing they can start empowering them. It started grassroots, and it spread like wildfire to get rid of pesticides.”

California State Parks Senior Environmental Scientist Danielle LeFer gave a brief presentation on the types of plants they were going to remove and answered participants’ questions prior to the weed pulling.  

“We organized this because the neighbors of Point Dume were concerned about the use of herbicides in the area,” LeFer said. “The State Parks really doesn’t have a big enough staff to remove a lot of these plants manually, and so we we’re able to get all of these people together thanks to the community to come out and really remove this particular species here Euphorbia, it’s a harmful invasive plant and the reason why we consider it harmful and invasive is because it takes over and spreads and nothing else can survive. So you lose the diversity and you lose all the other native plants in that area so that’s what we’re focusing on today.”

Some volunteers asked if there was any alternative to using pesticides, and LeFer said she has tried using salt to kill plants, but then the salt impacts soil, and sodium may damage roots through direct toxicity.

“There could be some less harmful organics too, but I’m not familiar with them,” LeFer said. “I think it’s good to have that conversation and to think about what the alternatives could be and how we can accomplish what we need to do in another way.”

LeFer said they host many restoration projects when they can get them funded but have been working on projects such as the restoring Topanga Lagoon and the bluffs at Leo Carrillo. 

“I love being able to have volunteers when that’s feasible, so it’s been thought-provoking, and I’m looking forward and looking at alternatives besides mechanical,” LeFer said. “I’m hoping that someday we can restore all of Point Dume because it’s such a precious resource.”

Point Dume was also a sacred site for the Chumash Native Americans. Visitors are asked to stay on the trail in an effort to help preserve this unique sand accumulation. Some disabled parking is available along Cliffside Drive, adjacent to the bluff-top park area. Additional parking is available below at the end of Westward Beach, which is an estimated 10-minute hike up to the bluffs. Public restrooms are available down near the parking lot. 

Schulman also said they discussed replacing large plastic bags with compostable bags. The group looks to organize another weeding session on Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. For more information, visit poisonfreemalibu.org or email PoisonFreeMalibu@gmail.com.

02 PoisonFreeMalibu SamBravo
On Wednesday, Aug. 9, members of Poison Free Malibu and State Parks representatives gathered at the Point Dume Natural Preserve to remove poisonous weeds. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.