Resident wants city to adopt pesticide plan for parks
EVERETT – Lowell resident Megan Dunn is on a mission.
Dunn wants Everett to reduce its use of pesticides at city parks. She made her case before the parks board earlier this month.
Dunn is encouraging the city to create an integrated pest management (IPM) program that would establish guidelines for when park workers can spray pesticides. Right now, the city has no guidelines.
Pesticides are harmful to people’s health. Dunn argues an IPM program will keep park users healthier.
Everett has made efforts to reduce its pesticide use. The parks department reduced pesticide use by 80 percent in the past decade, assistant parks director John Petersen said.
Everett applied 1,920 pounds of pesticide last year.
The city does not have a policy to go pesticide-free, but it is using less toxic products than before, Petersen said. Many of those products are deemed non-toxic by government standards.
Dunn sees room for immediate improvement in Everett’s pesticide practices. Earlier this month, she called for the parks department to put up better signage that alerts people to recently sprayed pesticides. Exposure to the toxic chemicals is higher when pesticides are still wet on the grass.
Dunn said she found one instance where pesticides were applied at Walter E. Hall Park hours before a soccer camp with hundreds of children came to play on the fields. She criticized the small piece of paper the city used to alert park users of the recent application.
Petersen said the city is working on better signage practices.
The cities of Mukilteo, Snohomish, Seattle and a handful of other cities either have reduced pesticide-use plans or are pesticide-free.
The city of Snohomish went pesticide-free from 2004 to 2009. Staff cuts and issues with knotweed required the city to start using a pesticide similar to RoundUp Pro under certain circumstances, Snohomish parks manager Mike Johnson said.
Today, Snohomish’s IPM requires park workers to fill out a permission slip, which Johnson must approve, before any spraying takes place.
Dunn argues an IPM would save Everett money in the long run, but some practices Dunn wants would require more labor hours in the short term.
For example, Dunn said Everett could trim and aerate the grass more regularly to prevent weeds. She also suggested putting mulch around trees instead of pesticides.
“I don’t want to lose a field to dandelions, but we should aerate the grass and cut it down first” before applying pesticides, Dunn said.
Johnson agrees that shorter grass helps keep away mold, but it makes it more difficult for grass to reseed itself. Once mold sets in, it’s hard to remove it with pesticide-free applications without redoing a field.
Johnson cautioned how feasible a big city like Everett could go pesticide-free in this economy.
“If I was the city of Everett, I’d be careful about becoming pesticide-free” because of labor costs, he said.
“Pesticide-free is the way to go if you can do it, but it’s expensive,” Johnson said.
His phone “rings off the hook” with residents’ complaints when parks look a little unkempt under the current IPM, he said.
“Looking a little fringy does not seem to be acceptable,” Johnson said.
Dunn tried to sustain a volunteer group in her Everett neighborhood to keep much of Lowell Community Park pesticide-free. The pilot program with the parks department fell apart earlier this year because of a lack of volunteers. As result, the city began spraying again.
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