Archive for Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Park weeds

June 19, 2007


To the editor:

Tonight, our city commissioners will decide whether to pour more poisonous herbicides on the places where our children tumble, crawl, and play tag and catch. According to the parks and recreation staff, it will cost an additional $58,600 to hire people to weed or cut grasses around poles and fences.

But how much will the herbicides cost and the vehicles and the gas to speed around squirting the chemicals at every flower bed, light pole or sign post in every park across the city? And the cost of those herbicides and gas are only the short-term costs. The long-term effects on youngsters who have romped around in the stuff year after year is yet to come.

And why do we do it? Because parks and recreation thinks people don't want to see a few tall sprigs of vegetation. But is this putting-green mentality worth the hazards to all living creatures, especially our children?

Pat Kehde,



Rightytighty 8 years, 5 months ago

I would rather not see the weeds and if it saves money go for it the city will have to cut corners somewhere.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

Excellent commentary. The item that rarely gets mention is allergic reactions to herbicides and pesticides which come far more quickly than say cancer.

================================================================ Among different agricultural areas, frequencies of detection were positively correlated with nearby agricultural use for atrazine, cyanazine, alachlor, and metolachlor, but not simazine. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that for these five herbicides, frequencies of detection beneath agricultural areas were positively correlated with their agricultural use and persistence in aerobic soil. Acetochlor, an agricultural herbicide first registered in 1994 for use in the USA, was detected in shallow ground water by 1995, consistent with previous field-scale studies indicating that some pesticides may be detected in ground water within 1 yr following application. ============================================================ The city could over seed with Buffalo Grass a grass that puts out dense growth,stifles weeds,needs no fertilizer or herbicide,no watering not to mention could go with one mowing annually thereby saving enough money to foot the bill for weed pullers.

Also parks could way back on large grassy areas and go with flowering shrubs,large patches of wild flowers and perennials plus mulch another huge money saver on the long term.

Mowing is a decent enough weed control. Most weeds have green foliage that blends well with grasses. Tell me why spend so much money on toxic chemicals for a weed free environment which is not the natural order of things? Why continue to spend so much on mowing/gasoline/machine maintenance when Buffalo Grass could all but eliminate the lions share of the cost?

A client of mine calls me once a year to mow their buffalo grass at a home off Crestview...anything but the poor side of town. The grass is beautiful in color and as it's 4" height blows in the wind. No it is not evergreen which is more natural to this climate.

Any good city landscaper could still create a beautiful Kansas landscape year round without evergreen grass, a grass which requires lots of resources during warm Kansas weather. Less need for sprinkler repair and parts.

Plenty of ways to cut back thus providing funding for weed pullers. Surely citizens could live with money saving more natural landscaping and a few weeds in the grass. Allow clover to grow for the honey bees.

Good reasons:

Eric Neuteboom 8 years, 5 months ago

Right on BlueHarley, you nailed it. Responsible use (all pesticide applicators must be licensed by the state) is the key to managing parks with the assistance of pesticides.

imastinker 8 years, 5 months ago

Merrill, is there anything that the city can do to cut taxes that you are in favor of?

blackwalnut 8 years, 5 months ago

I would be in favor of the city cutting taxes by stopping the development of new infrastructure to support new building driven by developers. Paying $200,000 to widen 6th & George Williams to 5 lanes at one point so that some developer can build Mercado over there is just unconscionable, when they have to let potholes ruin people's cars (damaged mine), sidewalks crumble, and the bus and library and Bert Nash take budget hits.

This No Developer Left Behind city commission and especially its mayor are going to be very predictable as far as what they cut and what they fund. I don't think this forward-thinking and valuable parks project is going to make the cut. No developer could make money off pesticide-free parks.

born_n_raised_n_kansas 8 years, 5 months ago

Here is an interesting article I found about Buffalo Grass:

==================================================== Here are a few things that caught my eye:

...It turns brown with fall's first freezing weather. It greens up with the return of warm weather in the spring. can be brown and unattractive when Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season lawn grasses look best. ...Because of rather aggressive runners, buffalo grass can require edging along walks, driveways, and shrub and flower beds. ...Those who are accustomed to a Kentucky bluegrass turf may object to walking (particularly barefoot), playing and sitting on buffalo grass turf. ...Without supplemental watering of buffalo grass, it often takes from 5 to 10 years to get a good ground cover. ...In late spring, mowing may need to be done every two weeks. Later in the season mowing every 3 to 4 weeks probably will be adequate. ...Broadleaf weeds, such as bindweed and dandelions, can be quite objectionable in low growing buffalo grass.


Merrill, I understand where you are coming from but I do not think that this would be a cheap, attractive answer for our problems today. Buffalo grass is not a good answer.

sourpuss 8 years, 5 months ago

I say to those who don't like the weeds, go pull a couple yourself. If we all pulled a couple of weeds, there wouldn't be any.

It is called a community. We should try it sometime.

Me, I pick up litter and put it in a bin. If you did just one little thing for Lawrence every day just because it would make the city a little better, then it would be a lot better.

And no extra pesticides or saleries needed.

Gopher 8 years, 5 months ago

I've been reading this blog with great amusement. To effectively convert cool season grass like fescue to warm season grass like buffalo grass, you'd need to spray the cool season grass with a herbicide like Round-up probably twice to be thorough. I work with farm chemicals daily. If you read the labels for most over the counter herbicides like weed or grass eradicators, you'll find that with the proper use they are extremely safe.

Kaw Pickinton 8 years, 5 months ago

We should have a pesticide park so all of you who find herbicides so safe can go frolic with your kids free from unsightly weeds. When you all die of cancer we can convert the park into a nice memorial.

-"extremely safe"? Your an idiot.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 5 months ago

Anybody that thinks spraying chemicals is safe is just misguided.

If they are so damn safe, why don't they occur naturally in parks?

I like the community involvement idea, sourpuss. People volunteer for all kinds of community things. Why not mowing grass?

Linda Endicott 8 years, 5 months ago

"Atrazine, the top selling weed killer in the United States, disrupts the sexual development of frogs"

If it has that kind of effect on frogs, OTTR, then what is it doing to humans?

Or do you think somehow that the human body is immune to stuff like that?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

Dear Mr. Corliss and the Commission,

After reviewing the Pesticide Record for 2006, it has been discovered that two pesticides were used in violation of the current Parks and Recreation Pesticide Use Policy. In 2005, Parks and Recreation Management told the City Commission that the department would no longer use Category I and II pesticides. However, the record indicates that Surge and Trimec Plus were used. Surge (EPA Registration # 2217-867) is a Category I pesticide. EPA Category I pesticides are deemed highly toxic. Trimec Plus (EPA Registration #2217-709) is a Category II pesticide and is considered by EPA to be moderately toxic.

The information was obtained from the PAN Chemical Database.

This is a very serious situation. For two years, Parks and Recreation has told our community that it does not use highly toxic or moderately toxic pesticides when the department clearly has and continues to do so. Making false claims such as this puts the community at risk physically and the City at risk legally and further serves to severely erode trust between city and community.

This serious situation is unfortunately just the latest example of a pattern of behavior that illustrates a lack of leadership and a lack of appropriate controls and oversight pertaining to pesticide-free maintenance.

Other examples include, but are not limited to the following:

  • LPRD submitted to the commission in 2005 a proposed pesticide-free plan with an error so large that it artificially inflated the projected budget by $90,000. When a Commissioner questioned the exaggerated figure, it was discovered to be erroneous.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago


  • The Pesticide Record has not been made publicly available for the past 2 years, despite repeated requests. The easiest way to do this would be to simply post the information on the city website, yet repeated requests for this have still failed to produce a complete record. In contrast, information produced for the public by other city departments is consistently posted on the city website within a few days, yet important pesticide safety data is still not posted, despite assurances to the contrary.

  • LPRD consistently communicated to the Watson Park Volunteer Coordination Team that the volunteer work was satisfactory, yet their communication to city management alleged that there were problems with the volunteers. Obviously, volunteers cannot address any potential issues not communicated to them.

  • LPRD has refused to switch their maintenance to one of weed prevention.

There are a number of deficiencies in leadership, operation and oversight in pesticide-free maintenance and we can and must do better.
The pesticide-free process was not intended to challenge the department to reinvent the wheel. LPRD needs to be directed to correct the outstanding deficiencies and develop leadership in this area by consulting with experts and professionals that have been successful in the field of pesticide-free maintenance.

Respectfully, Co-Coordinator, Pesticide-Free Parks Project

Emily Hadley 8 years, 5 months ago

I just read this letter above -- this is serious, and illustrates that these chemicals are not being used safely or appropriately. The letter is from a Co-Coordinator of the Pesticide-Free Parks Project to the commission.

While I oppose pesticides in any park or city green space, pesticides are definitely not necessary in the little parking barriers--I saw every mulch-filled median in the two-hour lots labeled with hazard signs--even where they have park benches for farmer's market shoppers to relax with their pets. They don't even have grass in them, much less weeds! Why bother?

Confrontation 8 years, 5 months ago

If you won't do it for the kids, then I'm sure you'll do it for the overfunded puppies and kitties in town:;bp=t

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

"imastinker (Anonymous) says: Merrill, is there anything that the city can do to cut taxes that you are in favor of?"

Yes go with a change in park landscape that would reduce cost by no use of pestcides, far less water consumption, no more toxic chemical fertilizers and far less mowing. The city generates a ton of compost that could be used in low maintence beds. Let wildflower patches replace grass thus even less mowing. Don't lay off staff. Instead put staff to work creating lower cost/lower maintenance more efficient beautiful landscape for long term savings.

Drop the idea for a local superdome and use existing outdoor resources for playing soccer which is an outdoor sport. Think about the cost of climate control in the superdome and staffing.

Forget the trafficway. INSTEAD use our local tax dollars to improve/design local county roads. to carry the traffic.County Commissioners will come asking for MORE tax dollars over and above the trafficway to support new housing so forget the trafficway.

Stop allowing developers and the real estate industry the privilege of running our community. Taxpayers cannot afford their decisions.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

According to a pesticide rep, who visited class many years ago, the handout displayed an applicator wearing a haz/mat suit with a respirator. It was then,probably 30 years ago, I decided that would not be my forte. When offered the service of weeding beds instead of applying herbicides our services have been very warmly received. Now if you've ever noticed after a stinky application of herbicide the sign indicates that for 2 days pregnant women,children and pets are advised to steer clear of their own yard. Imagine what that might be doing to wildlife.

EricW 8 years, 5 months ago

According to the city's 2006 pesticide-free parks report, Surge was applied to the ballfields at Holcom Park, Broken Arrow and Ice Field in April 2006.

Surge contains the "new active ingredient" sulfentrazone. In 2006, the manufacturer, PBI/Gordon Corp., withdrew its request to register the product for use in New York, in part because the state's department of environmental conservation found it would lead to "deterioration of groundwater/drinking water resources in New York State."

But what do those rubes know?

Emily Hadley 8 years, 5 months ago

Pesticide application does require protective gear, even though they tell you it is fine for your children and pets to roll in. I have heard two workers tell of being so rushed that they would never have time to put on and remove the gear, so they skipped it most of the time, thinking it couldn't be too toxic if it was OK to dump the stuff all over people's yards.

And on a less toxic scale, yes, Cascade is also a substance that should not be put into our water systems. It gets ingested from the dishes, degrades our downstream environment and our drinking water, and there are many safer alternatives to it.

Staci Dark Simpson 8 years, 5 months ago

What about environmentally friendly pesticides? They sell them through Gardens ALive which is a catalog you can find on the internet. We have used some of their stuff and been pretty happy with it.

ScottyMac 8 years, 5 months ago

Here's a link to the MSDS for Cascade detergent.

Note words and phrases like "this product would not constitute a hazardous product under normal use", "is not known to be corrosive," "would not cause environmental threat," safe for landfills and sewers, protective personal equipment is "not required with normal use."

Sure, "mild irritation is possible with prolonged contact," and "if swallowed, give a glassful of water or milk" are included for good measure. However, note the absence of language like "immediate health hazard," "irreversible eye damage," "fatal," "toxic to aquatic invertebrates," "mucosal damage," "carcinogenicity," and "burning sensations."

This is not to say that Surge is too dangerous for our parks; I haven't made up my mind on that issue yet. But we certainly aren't talking about dishwashing detergent here now, are we?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 5 months ago

"blue73harley (Anonymous) says: Merrill - chemical technology has taken just a few steps forward in the last 30 years since your "pesticide rep" instructed you on how to apply DDT."

And most strains become more toxic as the "pests" develop a tolerance.

coneflower 8 years, 5 months ago

spacystaci8 (Anonymous) says: What about environmentally friendly pesticides? They sell them through Gardens ALive which is a catalog you can find on the internet. We have used some of their stuff and been pretty happy with it.

I love Gardens Alive! I've been to their store in Montana. I used their corn gluten on my lawn - it's a dessicant that prevents seeds from germinating - and I had so many fewer dandelions that year! I was really surprised by how well it worked. I bought ladybugs from them, too, for my aphids and that doesn't work so well because of course they fly away, but I did still have fewer aphids that year.

I think you won't see the city buy Gardens Alive! stuff, because the local contractor who sells them their poisons would be angry over losing the business. And Gardens Alive! might be more expensive. The city would rather keep poisoning our wildlife and children. Lawrence isn't as forward-looking as it seemed to me when I first moved here three years ago.

lounger 8 years, 5 months ago

I cannot believe people still have this attitude!!!

  "Herbicides are perfectly safe when applied correctly." Wrong, Wrong,Wrong!! Science knows better and so do we!! Wake up people--poison gets in our waterways in our clothes and  on our children and so on. Its a fantasy to think we can contain the use of this stuff when its use is just plain irrisponsible. Hard work is the answer- I know its hard to accept but go green and natural. If you think otherwise you kinda missed the Boat. GREEN IS CLEAN!

karensisson 8 years, 5 months ago

Some people are so happy in their ignorance it's a shame to take that away from them.

perkins 8 years, 5 months ago

Thanks, Pat Kehde, for your letter. It sparked the usual stimulating point-counterpoint from our wise blogging community. Hadn't heard about Cascade. Is there any other brand that is deemed less harmful to the planet?

altarego 8 years, 5 months ago

It is easy to demonize Parks and Rec for using pesticides, a common practice for any organization charged with landscape maintenance. Personally, I have never seen or heard of any child or pet getting sick from eating treated weeds. I guess I might if I cared enough about this issue to click the links above.

At the same time, though, a pesticide-free maintenance plan sounds neato. I recommend that instead of finger pointing at Parks and Rec, a concerned citizens volunteer corps organize to pull weeds. We could meet at the new downtown Hooters for lunch afterwards.

gr 8 years, 5 months ago

Are frogs an acceptable animal to have within the city limits?


altarego 8 years, 5 months ago


Thanks for the link.

"Mmmmmmm, and I don't mean the fried food." Really? I will try it. But seriously, I didn't know Jefferson's had beer.

chemegirlie 8 years, 5 months ago

We studied this a bit in an environmental class...

The average herbacide ranks lower on the cancer risk "scale" than most naturally occuring "chemicals" found in the fruits and veggies we eat everyday.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 5 months ago

Are you people serious?

Do you really think, if pesticides and herbicides can do this kind of damage to animals that come into contact with them that it won't do the same things to humans?

Only difference is that frogs and things are it takes more to do the same damage to a human.

But that doesn't mean they're perfectly safe for people, either.

kuslave2 8 years, 5 months ago

I see weeds every day at North Iowa and Peterson Rd. You know future park site donate by Hallmark that sits un mowed un treated? What is up with that? It doesn't bother me seeing it unkempt or the weeds in it. What bothers me is , if I let my own yard get that tall and natural, I'd most likely get city citation.

I'm thinking maybe its ok to just call my yard a future park. Quit mowing and using herbicide and pesticide on it. Boy the money I would save yearly, and of course it would benefit children's health(non of which are mine) that always play through it anyway.

kuslave2 8 years, 5 months ago

^lol oh noes ... tainted drinking water in Lawrence!

Well I better quit eating fishies out of Kansas waters, tainted with crap, farm herbicide and pesticide run off, before I start worrying about what I drink out of the tap. Don't you think?

kuslave2 8 years, 5 months ago

On another note, about being or not being all natural in Lawrence take a survey of the property ran by the State (KU) in Lawrence.

Daisy Hill? lol More like Dandy Lion Hill. I often think to myself, if it were not for the weeds to mow on campus, those boys on the mowers would have nothing else to do, because there are more weeds than actual grass blades.

The only areas I can think of, that really get well maintained (weed free) around campus are the KU Endowment (money) KU Alumni Association (more money) and Hoglund Ball Park(sports for money.

Do parks attract public money? lol other than taxes,

Personally, I don't care if the city dose not treat its parks, as long as I am allowed to do the same. Besides, most young kids I see out playing (again, if not in my yard) are not in the parks anyway, but in the streets and culdasacks , also weed free. So maybe they should just pave over the parks (mine too) (screw city cost we can raise taxes) and its a win, win with everyone including the kids. That is un till people start complaining about harmful effects of dangerous pot holes on children.

erod0723 8 years, 5 months ago

"So maybe they should just pave over the parks (mine too) (screw city cost we can raise taxes) and its a win, win with everyone including the kids. That is un till people start complaining about harmful effects of dangerous pot holes on children." You better not do that, or else risk lawsuits from parents whose kiddies fell and scraped their knees or fell and knocked out some teeth. ;)

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