Synthetic rescue planned for organic parks

Durango (CO) City Council agreed with city staff that some turf in the organic parks program needs to be rescued.

“Some of these parks are definitely suffering from not having good nutrients,” Parks and Cemetery Manager Scott McClain said.

Two of the eight organically managed parks – fields at Needham Elementary and Park Elementary – will see one year of conventional treatment to “rescue” the grass, the council decided.

Four of the parks – Riverfront, Iris, Schneider and Folsom – will be managed with a synthetic fertilizer and organic herbicide. Pioneer and Brookside parks will remain fully organic.

Several city councilors expressed continued commitment to expanding the organic parks program after the health of the parks improve.

The parks will be reviewed by council next year to see how they are all fairing and compare results. The city is particularly interested to see the differences organic and synthetic fertilizers make on the turf, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said.

The conventional treatment at Needham and Park would include use of 2, 4-D, a chemical that organic park advocates have expressed concerns about, but it would be limited to one year, Metz said.

Mayor Dick White said that much of his concern centered on the use of synthetic herbicides in the parks and not on the use of synthetic fertilizer.

“I think the proposal here is a viable middle ground,” he said.

There is no way to access the long-term risk of 2,4-D and glyphosate, which the European Union has banned on based on the precautionary principal, he said.

“There are a lot of families that don’t want to take that risk,” he said.

Concerns about synthetic fertilizer are focused on introducing nitrogen into the waterways, which can be harmful. But he said he is confident in the city’s application of these fertilizers, which are much cheaper than the organic options, he said.

At the suggestion of organic parks advocates, the city also plans to plant mini clover in Riverview and Iris parks because it helps to naturally add nitrogen to the soil.

Organic park advocate Katrina Blair did not approve of the city’s decision to return to using 2, 4-D at Park and Needham.

“I feel it is socially irresponsible to put 2, 4-D on elementary school playgrounds,” she said.

Volunteers with Organic Parks Durango have offered to help pull weeds in organic parks because they would prefer to use manual labor rather than synthetic chemicals. – By Mary Shinn Herald staff writer