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Don't Use Pesticides in Our Parks

Weeds are harmless; pesticides might not be.

I am deeply dismayed that the will soon apply pesticides to the playing fields at three of our big parks to eliminate dandelions and clover.

If clover is present, it is there to fix the nitrogen the turf is lacking. Dandelions are harmless and fleeting, and actually benefit the garden ecosystem. Pesticides, on the other hand, are connected to childhood cancers; asthma; neurological, behavioral and immune system disorders; endocrine disruption; and reproductive impairment, to name a few. Why are we considering exposing our children to poisonous pesticides in order to eliminate harmless, fleeting, and beneficial plants? Furthermore, some of the pesticides that are not inhaled or ingested will end up in our water supply. Sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.

Folks, this is our park district. This is not the NFL, or Major League Baseball. We send our children to play on these fields for fun, to get some exercise, and to learn how to play a sport. The kids do not need a playing surface of pure Kentucky bluegrass – especially if it compromises their health.

New York and Connecticut prohibit pesticides on school playgrounds, turf, or athletic fields. 80 percent of Canada has banned the use of lawn pesticides because they cause great harm, particularly to children.

The time has come to be more tolerant of weeds. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” In Europe and Asia, dandelions are welcomed, as they are known to be highly nutritious and possess countless medicinal properties. Please look at dandelions and clover in a different way, not as an unwelcome pest, but instead as a sign that the grass is safe for you and your family.

For the health of our children, I urge the Park District of Highland Park to please maintain our community’s playing fields using natural practices. 

Michelle Kramer
Highland Park resident 

Kim Stone September 15, 2011 at 03:28 PM
We found out last night that the Highland Park park district intends to begin spraying these parks TOMORROW with Confront, an herbicide. Confront is ranked by the US EPA as a level 1 pesticide, which is their MOST TOXIC rating. It has been BANNED for residential use, and remains active for up to 18 months. That's a year and a half during which our children are exposed to and absorb this poison into their bodies. Is it worth the health risk to get rid of a few weeds? I hope HP residents will contact the Park District TODAY to ask them to cancel this pesticide spraying.
Emily Vaughn Janson September 15, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I completely agree with Michelle and Kim. HP's Park District has to stop compromising the health of the community over pretty lawns. Emily Janson
Alexa Raye September 15, 2011 at 09:46 PM
I hope someone is listening ( reading).
Kim Stone September 15, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Alexa - Feel free to contact Park District commissioners directly. All their contact info is on the park district website.
Alexa Raye September 15, 2011 at 09:49 PM
What is the rational for using potentially harmful herbicides vs organic/non toxic? Also, if Fink Park does become our next dog park, that would mean dogs traipsing around in toxic chemicals and then bringing them into our homes, including bedrooms, where we sleep. At least we can remove chemicals from our shoes, but are we going to have to bathe our dogs everytime we take them to the dog park?
Kim Stone September 15, 2011 at 09:59 PM
My understanding is that some of the Commissioners are not happy with the presence of weeds. They have been using natural lawn care for the past 4 years, and I think the fields look great.
Alexa Raye September 15, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Well, have they discussed this usage openly at meetings? Has the community offered feedback/alternatives? Transparency in the pdhp clearly doesn't mean 'open to suggestion', rather it just greenlights their actions under the guise 'that we informed you, our decision is made, now live with that decision". The unfortunate reality is that we all have to live with this environmentally challenged decision, whether we use the parks or not. The herbicides will contaminate our groundwater, enter our homes via our pets and shoes, and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that our kids won't get sick from it. Nice. Glad our commissioners listen to what their constiuents have to say.
Michelle Kramer September 16, 2011 at 12:49 AM
Well said, Alexa. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. "The Park District’s mission is to enrich the quality of community life through a diversity of healthy leisure pursuits and a heightened appreciation of our natural world." The park district board members need to realize that covering the children's playing fields with an extremely toxic, long lasting herbicide is inconsistent with the park district's mission. Exposing the children of our community to cancer causing poison in order to eliminate some harmless dandelions and clover: * does not "enrich the quality of community life"; * does not offer them "healthy leisure pursuits"; and * does not demonstrate a "heightened appreciation of our natural world".
Jacob Nelson (Editor) September 16, 2011 at 01:13 PM
I got an email from Park District Executive Director Liza McElroy yesterday that said the park district is "temporarily suspending the spraying scheduled for September 16 in order to provide the community with additional information." The letter will be posted soon.
forest barbieri September 16, 2011 at 02:56 PM
It would seem that a "greener" solution could be found as our city prides itself on sustainability and drives Prius vehicles et al. Several of the Park Board members have an involvement in travel baseball and I hope this is not just a result of field envy as they travel to other locations. Our children practice soccer on those same field's and I would not want our children exposed to something that we would not put on our grass at home. By the way, my home grass looks better than the fields, maybe they should just hire my landscaper:)
Diane St John September 30, 2011 at 01:02 AM
I wrote a long blog on my local patch about this same issue! I now live in CT (moved from Forest Park, IL 5 years ago) and our CT high school WAS sprayed "just one time" a week before school started! The groundskeeper at the school said "they tried everything" when I suggested many other ways to combat weeds. I wrote the blog and a letter to the local paper. Several people have contacted me to start a committee to be sure this does not happen again. Please read my blog for more information. I wish I knew ahead of time the school district authorized this spraying! Here in CT we have a law that bans pesticide use on the grounds of any daycare centers and schools from grades K-8. We need to extend that ban to grade 12, then go farther. (NY is now banned through grade 12) I hope you get momentum going there in Highland Park and IL will ban the use of these pesticides and keep our children safe. Here is the link to the blog I wrote- http://durham.patch.com/blog_posts/taxpayer-money-spent-on-unnecessary-pesticides-at-coginchaug-high-school Good luck to you all!

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