From electric car charging stations to solar highways, the Pacific Northwest is a model region for living green. The use of pesticides in public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds, is no exception. Some cities, like Arcata, California, have been pesticide-free for over a decade, whereas others are phasing out chemicals. Behind this movement to create safe parks are active citizens.
Ashland, Oregon is currently working on its Draft Ashland Parks Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy. A grassroots movement has sprung up to influence this policy. Klamath-Siskiyou Wild explains:
Last spring 440 people including 42 businesses signed a petition urging Ashland Parks Department to reduce or eliminate their use of chemical pesticides and adhere to the City’s 1996 Pesticide Ordinance, which requires that pesticides be “reduced or eliminated” on City property…
Citizens analyzed the Ashland Parks Department pesticide spray records for 2008 not including the Golf Course. These described 207 pesticide applications in 2008, which sprayed a total of 13 gallons (undilluted) of glyphosate and 2.5 gallons (undilluted) of triclopir, plus smaller amounts of eight other chemical pesticides. They used two “Tier 1 most toxic” pesticides (Finale herbicide and Lily Polysul insecticide)…
Even larger cities, such as Seattle, Washington, have stopped using all 131 formerly used Tier 1 pesticides.
The City of Seattle manages over 110,00 acres of public land, of which 12,000 acres are highly developed and managed grounds including greenhouses, specialty gardens, roadsides and medians, golf courses, and hundreds of miles of electrical transmission right-of-way.
Grounds staff, who have been practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for over 20 years using pest prevention and mechanical and cultural methods in landscape maintenance, were involved from the inception of the program. This resulted in a widely accepted approach that stretched our idea of what was possible and provided staff with other tools as well as the freedom to try things that might not work. Employee driven innovations have resulted in the elimination of Tier 1 insecticides and herbicides and a reduction in overall pesticide use.
Portland and Seattle both require 50 feet no-spray buffers around water and parks, and they require advance notification prior to application to warn its citizenry. Seattle has even gone so far as to hire goats as part of its IPM.
Goats, notoriously, will eat almost anything. While we ordinarily think of hand-pulling, herbicides, mowing, and other mechanical approaches of weed control, goats offer many advantages in weed- control.
In 2007 and 2008, King County Metro Transit hired a goat herder and 270 of his goats from Eastern Washington to assist with controlling weeds. These various sites have been difficult to maintain due to steep hillsides and uneven ground. The goats are a more efficient way to control the weeds than crews of human workers, present less risk of injury to the human staff, and eliminate the need for chemical maintenance.
The rest of the US could learn a lot from the success stories of the Pacific Northwest. From large to small cities, IPMs vary from complete “no-spray” policies to reduction of the most hazardous materials. Hopefully, Ashland, Oregon will develop a stronger pesticide reduction policy like their neighbors to the north and south.