Ashland Parks and Recreation Department workers are asking for a loosening of a virtual ban on herbicide use, saying they can't keep up with weed growth on city properties.
"We are losing a battle," said Parks Director Don Robertson.
Workers have asked the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission to let them spray herbicides on city properties they maintain, including street medians, parking lot landscaping and the Ashland Municipal Airport.
Commissioners are seeking public comment on the issue in various venues, including during a May 19 commission meeting that starts at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
The Parks Department is in its fourth year of a policy that bans the use of most chemical herbicides. Workers and volunteers have been pulling weeds by hand and parks employees also use organic herbicides.
Robertson said residents, including business groups and service organizations, have stepped forward to help in parks. But there are safety issues involved in having volunteers pull weeds from city parking lot landscaping and street medians. People also are less willing to volunteer outside parks.
Three years ago, the Parks Department lost a landscape maintenance contract with then Ashland Community Hospital because workers could not use chemical herbicides to control weeds, Robertson said.
The department also has received a letter from Jackson County and the state saying that Ashland needs to do more to control invasive Japanese knotweed and leafy spurge.
An aggressively invasive plant, Japanese knotweed can crowd out native vegetation and degrade animal habitat. Parts of the plant can break off, float down streams such as Ashland Creek and Bear Creek, and create new infestations.
The plant is a fire hazard during the dormant season, according to the state of Washington Department of Ecology.
Leafy spurge has seeds that can float to infest waterways. The plant can reduce the cattle-carrying capacity of pastures and rangeland by 50 to 75 percent, according to the Colorado State University Extension Office.
Organic herbicides only kill the top of the plants, while chemical herbicides can kill their roots, said Ashland Parks and Recreation Landscape Division Manager Anne Thayer.
Parks workers are allowed to use chemical herbicides on a traffic median on Main Street near the north entrance to town. Commissioners previously granted that exception because of safety issues caused by cars speeding past workers in the median.
Workers also have been able to spray the dirt infields of the baseball fields at North Mountain Park.
Earlier this week, commissioners also voted to allow chemical pesticide use in the bullpen area of the ball fields where pitchers warm up, and on the dirt warning tracks of the fields.
Outfielders who are chasing flying baseballs rely on the feel of dirt warning tracks under their feet to alert them that they are about to crash into outfield fences.
Parks workers are not asking to increase herbicide use in other areas of parks.
Among other steps, the Parks Department has been working to reduce the number of areas that need weeding on park land by paving beneath bleachers, park benches, fences and other areas.
It also has been using community service work crews to help battle weeds.
City of Ashland
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
May 24, 2010
Present: Commissioners Eggers, Gardiner, Lewis, Noraas, Rosenthal; Superintendents Dials and Gies
Absent: City Council Liaison Jackson; Director Robertson
CALL TO ORDER
Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m. at the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main Street.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Study Session – April 13, 2010
MOTION Eggers moved to approve the minutes as written. Rosenthal seconded the motion.
The vote was: 4 yes – 0 no [Noraas abstained]
Regular Meeting – April 27, 2010
MOTION Eggers moved to approve the minutes as written. Lewis seconded the motion.
The vote was: 3 yes – 0 no [Noraas and Rosenthal abstained]
ADDITIONS OR DELETIONS TO THE AGENDA
PARKS IPM POLICY
Gies said the Parks Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy included three sections: revised policy, guidelines, and pesticide reduction plan for FY 2010-2011. He said the IPM policy would be reviewed in six months and then annually; the guidelines were designed to provide direction for Parks staff in handling and applying pesticides; and the pesticide reduction plan included hiring a volunteer coordinator to organize work crews, reworking fence lines to cut down on spraying, and using wood chips to prevent weed growth. He listed current or impending pesticide-free areas within the parks system including Garden Way Park, the Dog Park, Glenwood Park, the entrance to LithiaPark, and 98% of open space areas. He said the plan would guide staff in making reductions, with a goal toward pesticide elimination. He said Parks was in line with many of the values and practices outlined by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). He said one of their guidelines was to start small, with neighborhood parks, and Parks was following that guideline.
James Moore, Jr, 1217 Park Street, acknowledged budget constraints and additional workloads but said a progressive community like Ashland needed to set precedents for other communities. He said the current Parks practices were not in line with the Valdez Principles. He said most pesticide labels did not include inert ingredients, which he described as proprietary information held by chemical manufacturers. He asked the commission to review their pesticide practices in terms of stream health.
Frances Dunham, 807 Beach Street, said an uncontrolled experiment was underway and the draft policy did not provide ample notice to park patrons about pesticide applications. She said park users needed to know what was applied, when it was applied, and the contents of each application. She said pesticides were linked to diseases and ADHD and inert ingredients made up as much as 99% of some products. She urged the commission to reject the draft plan in favor of a plan that would allow Ashland to become pesticide-free.
Allan Peterson, 807 Beach Street, said the issue was not a matter of weeds but of public health. He said many pesticides formerly used were now off the market due to bad effects and he asked the commission to take the lead in eliminating pesticides in Ashland parks. He said exposure to chemicals had long-lasting effects and he asked the commission to set aside the draft plan in favor of a more stringent plan.
Julie Norman (Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides), 596 Helman Street, said Donn Todt and Anne Rich eliminated some Tier 1 chemicals but another Tier 1 chemical, glufosinate, was still used in Ashland parks. She said the chemicals at the golf course required careful scrutiny. She suggested providing more written guidance to spray applicators working out of the various Parks shops. She displayed six photographs of sprayed areas at Walker Elementary School and grounds.
Kindler Stout, 130 Orange Avenue, said the Parks Department made the parks look good to people passing by, without thought to the health and safety of children. He called for a moratorium on chemicals in parks and asked the commission to protect children, fish, and animals by implementing a 50-foot buffer along creeks.
Isa Lara Marie, 610 Ashland Street, asked for the total elimination of pesticides in Ashland. She said she worked as an energy medicine practitioner and healer and had patients with chemical sensitivities caused by chemical exposures. She said she was also chemically sensitive and experienced acute neurological symptoms upon exposure to pesticides, which she described as dangerous chemicals. She said Dan Deemer from Arcata, CA, was willing to come to Ashland and work with Parks staff to help with the paradigm shift. She asked the commission to make a difference locally by ceasing pesticide use.
Angie Thusius, 897 Beach Street, said the statement made by Gies about working with NCAP was not accurate, as they recommended using no pesticides. She asked why Parks did not invite NCAP, OSU, and other academics to review the draft policy. She said 207 pesticide applications occurred in Ashland parks in the previous year and she asked why notices were not placed in parks educating the public about those applications. She said pesticides would be prohibited on school grounds by 2012.
John Olson, P.O. Box 972, said the community was asking for zero pesticides and eliminating pesticides was the right thing to do. He asked the commission to do as the community requested and eliminate pesticides.
Noah Sohl, 283 Scenic Drive, speaking as the co-President of Ashland High School, said chemicals were manufactured by big companies like Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup (used on school grounds). He said it was important to not support Monsanto and to stop using pesticides around children. He said the pesticide used to kill poison ivy also killed fish and ducks, as runoff went into creeks.
John Ward, 1525 Baldy Creek, a Rogue Fly Fisher, questioned the chemicals used at the golf course. He said glyphosate required a great deal of drift control and he was surprised to learn that so much was used at the golf course. He said the product used to kill blackberries could last in water for three years.
Dan Gregg, P.O. Box 1195, said he did not want his tax dollars spent in supporting Monsanto. He asked the commission to cooperate with the public by eliminating pesticides, taking care of the beautiful surroundings, and serving as stewards of the land.
Bach-Thor, P.O. Box 3587, showed photos of grass burners and other alternative methods for removing unwanted vegetation. He urged the commission to consider using them as alternatives to pesticides. He said the university put dye in their herbicides to alert people about their use. He suggested using natural herbicides like vinegar and he asked for the elimination of all pesticides.
Tom Marr, 955 N. Mountain Avenue, said he met with the Parks Commission in February 2009 to ask for a pesticide-free Parks Department. He spoke with appreciation about the Pesticides Subcommittee and thanked commissioners, staff, and citizens for their efforts.
Rivers Brown, 1067 Ashland Street, a neighbor of Glenwood Park, said he was glad to see pesticide reduction efforts at that location. He said pesticides were found in every body on the planet. He asked how the environment could be saved and global heating slowed if poisonings were not eliminated in one’s own backyard. He said it was time to relinquish the pesticide addiction for the sake of the planet.
Niki DelPizzo, 321 Clay Street, outreach director for Lomakatsi Restoration Project, spoke favorably about the work by Parks in removing non-native invasive species, which she described as a threat to the watershed. She said Lomakatsi worked with the school district and Parks over the past six years to teach environmental stewardship to youth groups and community members assisting with removals. She said many significant changes occurred over those six years.
Shannon Clery, 92 Emerick, mother of two young boys, thanked the commission for their work in reducing pesticides and said it was not enough. She asked them to phase out pesticides over the next few years. She said her boys played in parks and along the bike path, which she knew were sprayed without being posted, and said links were found between ADHD and pesticides. She asked them to take a stand and stop using pesticides.
Donna Benjamin, 258A Street, Suite 123, said she had suffered from asthma all her life. She asked how high a price the commission was willing to pay for green grass and asked them to go pesticide free, as health and wellness were of utmost importance. She suggested converting parks into areas for growing food.
Calleen Taylor, 1361 Quincy Street, said she recently moved back to the area and visited local parks with her children, then realized her children’s health was adversely affected by those visits. She asked the commission to hear the citizens’ voices and let them know they made a difference. She asked them to consider the health of current generations as well as seven generations into the future.
Nora Coolridge, 1040 Linda Avenue, said she moved to Ashland from Santa Barbara four years before. She said Santa Barbara County was pesticide-free within parks, schools, and golf courses. She spoke with surprise that pesticides were used in Ashland, a progressive community, and said she knew it was possible to go pesticide-free in Ashland. She suggested using students to help with non-pesticide maintenance efforts.
Sue Graham, 575 W. Nevada, wrote a letter to the commission that was read into the record by Cate Hartzell: “Please support these pesticide recommendations [from the Rogue Group Sierra Club of April 2010]. It is vital to the health of ourselves and future generations. We need the change now. If not now, when?”
Cate Hartzell, 892 Garden Way, congratulated the commission on their work and said it was not finished. She said the golf course escaped the public process. She spoke in support of the Sierra Club’s and Julie Norman’s recommendations and said targets needed to be specific. She asked the commission to post 48-hour notices about sprayings and to make the signs educational and artistic for those too young to read. She asked them to put the golf course into the reduction plan and to consider the Valdez Principles before voting on their integrated pest management policy.
Carrie Zoll, 78 N. Mountain Avenue, suggested an alternative to pesticides in the form of a restoration project utilizing mushrooms. She said the public wanted to work with the commission on chemical eliminations and she asked them to reach out and ask for help from the community.
Tom Dimitre, 901 Beach Street, speaking on behalf of the Rogue Group Sierra Club, voiced support for pesticide eliminations in Ashland and said the draft policy was not adequate. He said many chemicals once embraced as safe were later banned due to negative impacts on fish and other living creatures. He said a recent petition was circulated and more than 660 signatures obtained from citizens requesting pesticide-free parks. He asked for minimum 50-foot buffers and pre- and post-application notices. He asked the commission not to approve the draft policy but to send it back with a goal of eliminating pesticides in Ashland.
Ann Barton, 361 Patterson Street, said she had a dream of living in a pesticide-free Ashland that could become an example to the world of a sustained community. She said her puppy played at theNorth Mountain Park ballfield, ate the grass, and then became ill with seizures. She spoke in support of the change to eliminate pesticides in Ashland parks.
Heather Robinson, 210 California Street, Apt B, said she moved to Ashland from Burlington, VT, a progressive city, and learned that Ashland parks were sprayed with pesticides such as Roundup. She said her daughter had suffered from respiratory issues since November and was found to have high levels of toxicity in her blood. She asked the commission to eliminate pesticides in Ashlandparks for the health of the community.
Discussion Among Commissioners
Eggers said she was not in favor of using chemicals that poisoned the earth or humans. She agreed that the golf course required closer examination in terms of chemical applications and spoke with concern about inert ingredients in products. She said she was glad to hear people voicing interest in volunteering to assist with pesticide reductions. She said the existing draft policy was a good start and she was ready to make a motion for approval. She said the commission was committed to listening to new information, reviewing it every year, and working on further reductions and eliminations. She spoke of her grave concern about the environment in terms of invasive non-natives and said they might be one example where pesticides could be useful.
Eggers said she was not in favor of using chemicals that poisoned the earth or humans. She agreed that the golf course required closer examination in terms of chemical applications and spoke with concern about inert ingredients in products. She said she was glad to hear people voicing interest in volunteering to assist with pesticide reductions. She said the existing draft policy was a good start and she was ready to make a motion for its approval. She said the commission was committed to listening to new information, reviewing it every year, and working on further reductions and eliminations. She spoke of her grave concern about the environment in terms of invasive non-natives and said they might be one example where pesticides could be useful.
MOTION Eggers moved to adopt the IPM policy as presented. Gardiner seconded the motion.
Discussion Among Commissioners
Gardiner said the commission was striving to become pesticide-free and the current version of the policy was a logical progression toward that goal. He said the commission’s intention was to learn from the community.
Noraas said the Pesticides Subcommittee was formed based on citizen concerns about pesticide use practices. She said citizens asked the commission to reduce pesticide use, include reduction language in the pesticide policy, look at inert ingredients in products used, and come in line with city pesticide practices. She said those requests were honored, a subcommittee formed, and many changes implemented. She said the commission chose to dedicate $80,000 in the next fiscal year to hire a volunteer coordinator toward a goal of reducing pesticides. She said the golf course required additional scrutiny and she wanted to look at the 24- or 48-hour signage issue. She said signage following applications was most important. She said there was erroneous information circulating within the community such as the misperception that Parks sprayed lawns when they did not spray lawns. She said Ashland Parks used fewer pesticides than other communities.
Rosenthal said the current draft policy was light years ahead of where the commission was fifteen months prior. He suggested amending the policy to include 48-hour postings (educational signage), 50-foot buffers, and discontinuing the use of Tier 1 chemicals in Ashland parks, with all changes reviewed in six months.
Lewis thanked the subcommittee for their work on the draft policy and the public for their input. He said the draft IPM policy was a good faith effort toward reductions and eliminations of pesticides. He said the draft also brought the commission in line with city practices and policies. He said the Volunteer Coordinator would provide assistance with pesticide reductions and the policy would be reviewed in six months and then annually. He said the Parks Department was only one group in the city using pesticides and encouraged proactive citizens to talk with their neighbors and promote community-wide pesticide reductions. He agreed with the concept of increasing notice from 24 hours to 48 hours, implementing a 50-foot buffer, and reevaluating pesticide use at the golf course. He spoke in support of adopting the policy and reducing pesticides immediately.
Eggers suggested posting spray notices on the City of Ashland Web site to notify the public of their occurrences.
MOTION TO AMEND Eggers moved to amend the motion to include 48-hour pre- and post-application notification for all applications. Gardiner seconded the amendment to the original motion.
The vote was: 5 yes – 0 no
MOTION Rosenthal moved to approve the guidelines with the change of implementing a 50-foot buffer. Noraas seconded the motion.
The vote was: 5 yes – 0 no
MOTION Noraas moved to adopt the IPM reduction plan with a specific goal of looking at pesticide use at the golf course and possible areas of reduction. Eggers seconded the motion.
The vote was: 5 yes – 0 no