Park district brings back pesticides after turf deteriorates
BY CHARLES BERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org August 21, 2011 6:36PM
The Park District of Highland Park's Board of Commissioners decided Aug. 19 to again use chemical pesticides to treat its playing fields. The district changed its policy four years ago to only use organic materials, but said last week that its fields are
Updated: November 3, 2011 4:05PM
Four years ago, the Park District of Highland Park banned the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on its playing fields. It’s “integrated pest management program” was praised as a model among parks organizations leading a natural lawn-care movement.
But after shifting from pesticides to organic, health-conscience techniques, including intensified irrigation, aeration, mowing, over-seeding and other cultural practices, the district is going to let its grounds keepers again deploy pesticides and herbicides.
The commissioners OKd the change last week after park officials said the organic program had likely contributed to the worst field conditions the district has seen in more than a decade.
Corn gluten meal, which is billed as a natural substitute for synthetic herbicides, was tested in Highland Park, but district officials reported odor problems and limited success.
Restaurant-grade vinegar also has been sprayed and determined to be a better alternative to pesticides in some cases.
Ted Baker, the district’s director of park operations, said dandelions, clover and other invasive weeds have overrun several district parks. Weeds are said to cover more than 60 percent of the ground at Fink, West Ridge and Danny Cunniff parks.
Four years ago, the district won awards for its turf health and playability. Now park users and athletic program leaders have been complaining.
“The fields are getting worse every year,” Park District Commissioner Cal Bernstein said. “I think something needs to be done to reverse the trend.”
The district will continue to use aspects of the organic program, but the district will apply one round of the previously banned pesticides or herbicides at the three most problematic parks.