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Herbicides banned in 5 parks.

Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

PURER PARKS Eugene parks employees and anti-pesticide activists will mark the city's decision to ban the use of pesticides at some city parks: When: Noon-3 p.m. Saturday at Scobert Park, 1180 W. Fourth Ave. What: Demonstrations of pesticide-free techniques, native plant giveaways and children's activities. The advocates' arguments: See "Pesticide-free Parks: It's Time," at www.pesticide .org/pfpreport.pdf For information, email: kevin.p.finney@ ci.eugene.or.us

Eugene is declaring about 2 percent of its park land an herbicide-free zone effective today as a pilot project to test whether city crews can manage without the chemicals.

For the next two years, the crews will pull weeds by hand - or use other nonchemical means - at five smallish neighborhood parks scattered across the city.

They are: Awbrey, Berkeley, Scobert Gardens, Shadow Wood and Gilbert.

They make up 10 1/2 acres of the city's 537-acre parkland estate.

The move raises a number of questions: Can city crews find time for the added work it takes to pull weeds manually? Can they meet their established standards for parks appearance? Or if the standards slip, will the public accept a higher level of weediness in return for elimination of herbicide use?

"If it's really successful, people won't notice a difference," said Kevin Finney, the city's manager of parks maintenance. "We want to be really clear on what we can do."

The city is teaming up with the nonprofit Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides for this pesticides-free parks program, which was unveiled in October 2005.

The Eugene advocacy group would like to eliminate pesticides from all the parks, but "we're really happy with this first step," agency public education coordinator Megan Kemple said.

Children and pets are vulnerable to poisoning from herbicides, Kemple said. Both are low to the ground so they're more likely to be exposed. And children are developing, so there's more opportunity for chemicals to interrupt biological processes.

Possible short-term health effects of exposure to herbicides are eye and skin irritation, nausea and trouble concentrating, Kemple said. Long-term risks are reproductive problems and cancers.

Studies have indicated that pesticides washing off public and private lawns into rivers have interfered with salmon reproduction - including their ability to navigate to spawning grounds, to school and to produce viable eggs.

Some pesticides linger, Finney said.

"They have a long lifespan. They're waterborne, so they move into rivers and streams. They start accumulating in wildlife, animals and the soil. And they start showing up in drinking water."

City crews aren't opposed to reducing the use of pesticides. They've been cutting back on the chemicals for nearly two decades.

They no longer treat expanses of park grass, for example. Herbicides are reserved for use along fence lines and around trees.

Herbicides are forbidden on playgrounds and in dog parks, Finney said.

The city is pushing toward using herbicides with a severely limited "swat" approach - applying them strategically to beat back a new outbreak of invasive weeds, he said, and not as an ongoing weed management tool.

Finney said the five-park trial is to show homeowners how to manage their weeds without herbicides, because the bigger problem in Eugene is the runoff from private lawns.

The alternatives include burning weeds with a propane flame, hot foam applications and mulching techniques - besides plain old hand weeding.

In a year, the city will evaluate how well the program worked and how parks users respond.

When officials introduced the concept eight months ago, they were surprised at the lack of heated opposition. They expected to encounter aesthetic objections.

Instead, members of the public urged them to consider big parks, such as Alton Baker or Amazon, for the no-pesticide designation.

The parks department has set up no formal means of collecting public opinion during the present experiment, but Finney is confident that he'll learn what people think.

"We tend to get feedback. It's Eugene. People call, e-mail, call the mayor," he said. "I'm not anticipating any problem getting people in Eugene to share their thoughts."
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Title Annotation:Government; The city will experiment with pulling weeds by hand for the next year
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 3, 2006
Words:672
Previous Article:THE BULLETIN.
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