Groups Make Property Tick Proof
By RITA PAPAZIAN  Correspondent, Connecticut Post

WESTON | June 26, 2000 -- Tackling the tick problem the natural way - by landscaping techniques - is showcased in a demonstration project under way in Weston.

The Coley Homestead, home of the Weston Historical Society, will be the site for the project designed to educate people about ways to rid their properties of tick habitats. The homestead is located at 104 Weston Road (Route 57).

The Westport/Weston Health District is getting help in preparing the tick-control landscape, including from the Weston Kiwanis Club, the Weston Garden Club and the Westport/Weston Nature Center. The landscape is to be completed by the end of the summer.

The demonstration project is part of a three-year initiative the health district has launched to cut the threat of Lyme disease through public education, landscape management and vaccinations.

The debilitating disease is spread through the bite of the deer tick, whose numbers have burgeoned in recent years.

"We're not going to be able to get rid of all the ticks, said Kathi Traugh, the district's project director, "but to focus where it counts."

Traugh said homeowners can play an important role in controlling ticks, especially within the immediate area of their houses, where she suggests people refrain from feeding wildlife that carry the deer tick.

Traugh said the demonstration project will enable residents to "take the knowledge and put it into their own backyards." She suggests residents begin by taking a look at their property and getting rid of bird feeders near the house, cleaning up brush and leaf litter and anything where ticks can create their habitats.

"People should analyze their properties and create a zone around the house to make it as tick-free as possible," Traugh said.

The demonstration site will consist of a self-guided walking tour with 20 display stations showing landscaping changes to make a property less "tick friendly."

The project will demonstrate good examples of landscape management.

These include installation of a wood chip barrier; clearly defined, well-manicured borders to provide less opportunity for contact between people and ticks; and lawns and sunny areas.

People should avoid setting up bird feeders near the house; groundcovers such as pachysandra; and poorly maintained stone walls.

The site will include gardens to complement the 19th-century Coley Homestead, which residents can replicate on their own property.

Traugh said the site was selected because it is easily accessible and, once in place, people will be able to visit at their leisure.

The rate of Lyme disease cases in Westport and Weston is much higher than the rest of the state, according to local heath officials.

In 1999, Westport's case rate was 421.9 per 100,000 residents and Weston's rate was a 685.9 per 100,000. The state rate in 1999 was 97.7 per 100,000.

The tiny nymph ticks, which feed on deer and transmit the Lyme bacteria, caused 3,251 cases of the disease in Connecticut in 1999.

Prue Bliss, who serves on the Weston Historical Society Board of Trustees and her husband, Woody Bliss, a Weston selectman and Kiwanis member, will take an active role in establishing the demonstration site.