Ashland will reduce its park pesticides

ASHLAND — The Parks and Recreation Commission has adopted a plan to reduce, but not eliminate, pesticide use in the parks system.

Residents who were vocal supporters of pesticide elimination had said they would volunteer to pull weeds. Many were angered by the commission's decision on Monday to adopt new rules that reduce pesticide use but stop short of laying out a plan for eventually eliminating the chemicals.

"Don't think you'll get volunteers if you continue to poison the parks!" one man shouted from the audience at the Monday meeting.

Resident Angie Thusius, who has advocated for pesticide reduction, talked to fellow pesticide opponents in the aftermath of the meeting.

She said on Tuesday that many were upset by the commission's decision.

"Nothing obliges the parks (department) to have pesticide-free parks. There is no plan," Thusius said.

She said it would have been much easier for people to rally around a pesticide elimination plan and volunteer their time. But she said it's too early to tell whether people will decide not to volunteer.

Parks Superintendent Steve Gies said staff would be able to carry out some of the pesticide reduction steps on their own, such as installing concrete under fence lines so vegetation doesn't have to be sprayed there.

The commission set aside $80,000 in the coming fiscal year, which starts on July 1, to pay the salary and benefits of a coordinator who would oversee volunteers and their projects.

Commissioners said volunteers are important for reducing pesticide use.

"For every person who pulls a weed, we don't have to spray it," Commissioner Jim Lewis said.

Under the new policy and guidelines adopted by the commission on Monday night, parks staff won't apply pesticides within 50 feet of streams, wetlands, playgrounds, picnic areas and community gardens.

Notices will be posted 48 hours before any pesticides are applied, and will remain in place for 48 hours after application.

Pesticides will not be applied in any parks from Memorial Day through Labor Day. With Memorial Day fast approaching, parks staff won't be applying any more pesticides this year until after Labor Day, Gies said.

The various pesticide reduction strategies don't apply to the parks department-run Oak Knoll Public Golf Course, which has high-maintenance areas that include putting greens.

However, commissioners voted to evaluate pesticide use at the golf course and to look for ways to make reductions.

Parks staff will prepare regular reports for the commission that detail pesticide use throughout the parks system.

Concerned residents tallied 207 applications of pesticides by parks staff in 2008. The pesticides were used in parks and on school and Ashland Community Hospital grounds that are cared for by parks staff. The count of pesticide applications did not include use at the golf course.

Residents are working to count the number of pesticide applications done in 2009.

While commissioners weren't ready to adopt a plan that mandates elimination of pesticides, several said they hope to eventually achieve that goal.

Commissioner Mike Gardiner said public participation in the form of volunteerism is critical.

"That will be the key to eliminating pesticides," he said.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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