- Memofrom Mark Hecker, the city's parks superintendent, about the feasibilityof future pesticide-free park programs
- Requestfrom Marie Stockett, an organizer of the Pesticide-Free Park Project, toexpand the number of pesticide-free parks in Lawrence
- Environmentalscorecard rates Lawrence, Topeka (06-07-07)
- Lawrence Parks andRecreation: Lawrence's "pesticide-free parks" initiative
Those darn weeds.
If Lawrence wants to ban herbicide and pesticide use in all of its parks, residents will need to lower their aesthetic standards or city commissioners will need to come up with about $60,000 extra per year to pay for more weed eater operators, city parks and recreation leaders have determined.
Supporters of a pesticide-free park program, though, are disputing those findings.
"I think that is a sign that there is still a problem with the Parks and Recreation Department being resistant to switching its practices," said Marie Stockett, an organizer of Lawrence's Pesticide-Free Parks Project.
Mark Hecker, the city's park superintendent, said that isn't the case. He said unless the public is willing to live with weeds or tall grass around light poles, trees and fence lines, the city will have to hire six seasonal employees to run string trimmers. Currently, the city - about two times per year - sprays Roundup around the trees and on other areas.
The cost for the additional employees is estimated at $57,600 per year, plus another $1,000 for fuel. The city also would be facing an upfront cost of about $18,000 for a new truck and weed-trimming equipment.
Stockett said additional city employees wouldn't be needed if the city adopted practices such as mulching around trees, fence lines and other hard-to-mow areas.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will get to decide whether the pesticide-free park idea is a daisy or a dandelion. Two years ago, the previous City Commission selected Watson Park near Sixth and Kentucky streets to serve as part of a pesticide-free pilot project.
Parks and recreation leaders are telling commissioners that they can take some steps toward a pesticide-free park system but can't recommend going as far as some residents want. Here's a look at what they can and can't do:
¢ Can eliminate the use of pesticides in all wood chip areas beneath playground equipment and near picnic shelters. Hecker said that shouldn't cause a significant increase in city costs, although he said residents might notice a few more weeds in those areas.
¢ Can create a public database that shows when and where city crews have applied pesticides. Hecker said the list would be added to the parks and recreation Web site and updated annually. Stockett wants the list updated much more frequently so residents can consult it before going to a park.
¢ Can't recommend eliminating pesticide use on athletic fields. Hecker said the staff would manage the fields using a "least toxic practices" approach. But Hecker said he wants to have the option of using pesticides and herbicides to meet the public's expectations for the fields.
¢ Can't recommend eliminating pesticide use in the city's many mulched flower beds and landscape areas. Hecker said least toxic methods would be used, but pesticides may be needed to protect the "thousands of dollars" in investments that the city makes in plants and flowers. He also said he wasn't optimistic that he could successfully hire enough laborers at a reasonable price to hand-weed the beds.
Previously, some people had volunteered to help weed Watson Park.
"As far as volunteers go, they work great when they show up," Hecker said. "Our experience has been that the hotter it gets, the fewer volunteers we have."
Stockett said banning pesticide use in flower beds is a high priority because children are often drawn to the flower beds to "explore."
City commissioners have expressed varying levels of support for the pesticide-free park idea. The item is back on the agenda to determine if commissioners want to include the additional funding in the 2008 budget, which they already have said faces numerous financial challenges.
The meeting begins at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.