Advertisement

Archive for Sunday, June 18, 2006

Pesticide-free park difficult but doable

June 18, 2006

Advertisement

When it comes to maintaining one of Lawrence's premier parks without the use of pesticides, Mark Hecker has tried just about everything.

Hecker, parks superintendent for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, has used one device called a "Flamer Machine" that burns weeds; mixed up batches of high-powered vinegar designed to replace pesticides such as Roundup; and researched a fancy-sounding device called the Waipuna Weed Control System, which sprays a hot foam of natural corn and coconut sugars to kill weeds.

But after a year of maintaining Watson Park - south of Sixth Street between Kentucky and Tennessee streets - without a drop of pesticides, Hecker has found that it is an old-fashioned product that works best: elbow grease.

"It is pretty labor-intensive," Hecker said. "It is obviously harder than some of the other methods that we were using."

But the one-year pilot project has proven that a major pesticide-free park is doable. Hecker and volunteers who have helped pull weeds said the park's appearance was holding up well.

A bee lands on a flower in a garden at Watson Park, which is pesticide-free. Keeping it pesticide-free takes several volunteers and a lot of time.

A bee lands on a flower in a garden at Watson Park, which is pesticide-free. Keeping it pesticide-free takes several volunteers and a lot of time.

"I think the park looks great," said Marie Stockett, a coordinator of the volunteer group that helps the department. "It looks as good or better than the other parks."

Unsure about expansion

That beauty will have to be left to the beholder. But Hecker said he did have concerns about expanding the program to other high-profile parks in the community.

"With just doing the one park, it hasn't been that difficult to juggle our staff around and get done what we need to do," Hecker said. "But it would be a much bigger concern if you did it systemwide."

Hecker said to go pesticide-free at all 52 parks in the city likely would require hiring several crews of workers to operate weed trimmers and brush cutters, something Lawrence hasn't done regularly since the early 1980s when it began spraying hard-to-mow areas with Roundup twice a year.

Hecker said he hadn't developed cost estimates to do that, but he expects it would take four crews of three people each to work during the mowing season. It also likely would require the purchase of some pickup trucks to provide transportation for the crews.

Crews also would have to be hired to do hand-weeding in the approximately 200 landscaped flower bed areas that the department maintains, he said.

Marie Stockett, left, and Lana Pratt weed one of the gardens in Watson Park, south of Sixth Street between Kentucky and Tennessee streets. The park is pesticide-free, which requires more weeding. Volunteers are asked to weed the park every one to two weeks. Stockett coordinates a volunteer group that helps the city's Parks and Recreation Department with the pesticide-free program.

Marie Stockett, left, and Lana Pratt weed one of the gardens in Watson Park, south of Sixth Street between Kentucky and Tennessee streets. The park is pesticide-free, which requires more weeding. Volunteers are asked to weed the park every one to two weeks. Stockett coordinates a volunteer group that helps the city's Parks and Recreation Department with the pesticide-free program.

Stockett, though, said members of her group - the Lawrence Pesticide-Free Park Program - would like the city to keep an open mind about expanding the program.

"It can be a slow process, but we would still like to see the program continue to grow," Stockett said.

She said there likely would be more upfront costs associated with the program, but questioned whether the long-term costs would be any greater. And Stockett said the main benefits of the program went far beyond dollars and cents.

"Coming to a pesticide-free park really puts me at ease," said Stockett, who frequently takes her two young children to the park. "Before, you never knew what your children were playing in because pesticides are invisible."

Stockett estimates about 50 community members have helped city workers maintain the park. There are two ways volunteers can help, she said. About 20 people have adopted a flower bed, which requires them to check the bed for weeds every one to two weeks. Others can come to a monthly meeting at the park and participate in group work.


Marie Stockett weeds one of the gardens in Watson Park. "The goal is to try to get it by the root," Stockett said.

Marie Stockett weeds one of the gardens in Watson Park. "The goal is to try to get it by the root," Stockett said.

Gave these a shot

Hecker said many of the practices the department tried to use in place of chemicals worked only marginally. For example, the Flamer Machine - which is basically a propane torch with a long handle - burns weeds growing through sidewalk cracks, but it discolors the concrete and leaves it hot for about 15 minutes. And it has some limitations when it's used near parked cars.

Using horticultural vinegar also has been less than ideal, Hecker said. The solution burns the tops of weeds, but growth resumes after about two weeks. And Hecker said he thought the solution was more dangerous to applicators because it is fairly acidic.

The department also has stepped up its mulching program to help control weeds in flower beds. That's been effective thus far, Hecker said, but he said the extra mulch eventually will accumulate to the point that it will degrade the growing environment.

Comments

lunacydetector 8 years, 6 months ago

ain't nothin' like pulling weeds - ALL THE TIME.

i saw some people trying to shoo away the mosquitoes - it wasn't effective at all. i think the mosquitoes wanted some companionship because they kept coming back over and over again.

Sandman 8 years, 6 months ago

Sometimes I wonder if the progressives are having a "Who can blow money the stupidest way" contest.

Roads crumbling, sewers backing up -- Gee, let's make the parks harder to maintain!

planetwax 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm glad to be a part of a community that cares about the health of our citizens, especially our children and pets. If trying to reduce our exposure to environmental toxins, namely pesticides, is considered "progressive", then progressive I am! See some facts about pesticides and question that next purchase of Roundup or Off. http://www.cehn.org/cehn/pesticides.html

It is sad to think bringing people together to beautify our environment naturally is considered "progressive".

Btw, I have been taking one odorless garlic pill a day and haven't been bitten by one mosquito since! That's coming from someone who lives by the river!

Jay_Z 8 years, 6 months ago

Right on macon.

This is just another money-wasting attempt by liberals to chase their pipe dream of a utopian society. The use of a little herbicide/pesticide ain't gonna hurt you--just watch your kids and make sure they aren't drinking the chemicals right out of the bottle. If you're really concerned, don't let them eat any grass or other plants in the park. Just running around in a park where chemicals were used is not going to hurt you.

blessed3x 8 years, 6 months ago

Just ask the families of the millions of people that die from mosquito-born illnesses every year in Africa how they feel about the US's ban on DDT and goods from any country that uses DDT.

Common sense is no longer lacking, it has officially left the building.

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

Pilgrim, LOL! You took the words out of my keyboard.

KansasPerson 8 years, 6 months ago

Pywacket, thanks a million. This little confusion has been driving me crazy ever since this story first hit the news. I've been wondering all along why they kept mentioning "pesticides" and then never talking about anything but weeds. And I am still in the dark as to whether they are using anything in the parks to keep the bugs (especially chiggers) down, or if they just cut out the weed-killers as the articles keep talking about.

I'm so confused! And I'm like filet mignon to a chigger, so I really do want to know. Darn things itch more than a million mosquitoes, and the bite takes months to go away.

Kaw Pickinton 8 years, 6 months ago

macon47,

I think that's the whole point of the volunteer program. People going out pulling weeds. Did you RTFA?

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

My neighbors are "natural." Their weed-infested, unruly yard is exremely unattractive. But, WTF, whatever floats your boat, right? I've been putting up with the intrusion of chickweed, dandelions, K-weed (is that what it is?) and crabgrass from their yard to mine for years.

It was jollly to see them hire help to remove their yard of debris for a recent party, and to see them, with face masks firmly in place, spray their yard for "pests".

Okay, once in every four years, it gets cleaned up. I will not complain about an improvement, whenever it occurs.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.