Keep trying organic pesticides

It's too early to declare the city of Ashland's organic pesticide experiment a failure. The city should give it another year, but also should give itself the latitude to deal with weed and pest problems if they get out of hand.

The city's parks department reported that the first year of trying to combat weeds with organic pesticides was largely a failure, but also noted there were mitigating circumstances. Organic pesticides — which include herbicides and insecticides — work best in dry conditions. Last year was anything but dry, particularly in the spring and early summer.

That was compounded by an over-the-top requirement that parks workers post areas at least two days before using the organics. The workers would wait for a dry day, post the signs and then wait two days. By then, it was often raining again, so areas went untreated for long spells. Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson described it as "an exercise in futility."

Last week, the Parks Commission exercised good judgment in unanimously agreeing that the organic treatments could be applied without advance notice and instead requiring only that notices be posted during the time they are being applied. It seems like overkill to require organics be used and then required the sort of signage used to warn about chemical applications.

The commission will meet March 26 and discuss whether to direct staff to prepare an alternative plan that would allow for chemical pesticide use in early 2013 should the organic treatments fail again.

They should consider that plan without being unduly swayed by the fiercely anti-chemical pesticide partisans who dominated the discussion when the current treatment plan was developed in 2010. There are certainly legitimate concerns about use and misuse of pesticides, but as with most true believers, those adamantly opposed to chemical pesticides see this issue in only black and white terms.

There is room for moderation in the use of pesticides. The old days of spraying Roundup on anything that wouldn't be appropriate for a golf course fairway are over. But judicious, carefully monitored use of chemical pesticides can be beneficial in preventing noxious weeds from taking over the city's parks and other public lands.

But, first, the city should stick with its plan to give the test at least one more year. If the spring and summer are closer to normal, the parks department should get a better read on how effective the combination of organic pesticides and volunteer weeders can be. Then it can make an informed decision that would protect both the health of the community and residents' ability to fully use their parks.

Share This Story