City might have organic parks by fall
By Jim Haug Herald staff writer
Durango made initial plans Tuesday to start a pilot organic-parks program by fall, which could cost the city about $140,000 in startup and equipment costs.
Supporters of the organic program, however, already have raised about $51,000 to pay for about half of the costs for new equipment. City officials acknowledged that they could use a self-propelled sprayer, an aerator and a seeder regardless of the organic program because the equipment could be used for more conventional park treatments.
Initially at least, organic methods are expected to cost about $39,000 more than it would cost to conventionally treat the nine parks in the pilot program: Pioneer, Brookside, Riverfront, Iris, Schneider; Needham, Fanto, Riverview Sports Complex and Folsom, all chosen as a representative sampling of city parks.
Once an organic consultant’s recommended systematic approach takes effect and there’s less demand for startup costs such as seeding, expenses are expected to go down, especially if the city develops its own compost. Mayor Dick White also suggested the city could find a local supplier, too.
Because organic is more labor-intensive, including weed pulling, Councilor Dean Brookie liked the idea of spending city money locally for workers rather than buying expensive chemicals produced elsewhere.
While organic treatments would put new demands on local contractors, Brookie said it’s normal for businesses to have to change and adapt.
Officials indicated they would evaluate the program after three years and would make some allowances for drought conditions on grass.
As a standard, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said the city likes to keep weeds to 5 percent or less in its parks.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury complained of weeds in Brookside Park, which has been an “organic by default” park because organic products have replaced conventional lawn-care products there, but the city has not yet taken a systematic approach to organic lawn care, either. Pioneer also uses organic products.
As a park volunteer, Marbury said she has taken a shovel and hoe to a vine creeping up on the Brookside playground equipment. “I’m tough!” Marbury joked.
Chip Osborne, the city’s organic consultant, suggested that the city could do a “rescue” treatment on the weeds there, or a one-time treatment with more conventional weed-killers.
Katrina Blair, an advocate who pushed for the organic program, said she was grateful the city is going ahead.
“It sounds like the city is really receptive,” Blair said.
“One thing that is important to me is that Brookside and Pioneer retain their organic status,” she added. “If the rescue treatment is chemicals and not considered organic, I would be (against it).”
Blair also took a different perspective on the vine that is creeping up on the playground at Brookside.
“The weed Sweetie is talking about is a tree root,” Blair said. “It’s the nature of trees. So there’s a little misperspective, in my opinion.”