Oak Park parks go back to herbicides

Board approved limited plan in April, started again this fall

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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

The Park District of Oak Park has begun using chemical weed-killers again after a decades-long moratorium. For the first time since the late 1980s, the park district began using herbicides in September to kill weeds on baseball infields in the park district.

The park district's greening advisory committee, which is made up of citizens appointed by the park board, recommended allowing chemical pesticides to be used in limited conditions. The park board approved the decision to use the chemicals in April 2010.

"It will be a change for the district," said Executive Director Gary Balling. "In the past, we haven't used herbicides, but we're now using an integrated pest management system where you try other methods until you're sure it's the only thing that's going to get rid of a weed."

Mike Grandy, the park district's superintendent of building and grounds, said that so far, the park district has only approved using a chemical called glyphosate, better known as Roundup.

It's an effective solution for weeds like the hardy ones that come up between pavement cracks and which can overrun baseball infields.

"It's a systemic herbicide. When it kills a plant, it kills it all the way to the roots," Grandy said. "You put glyphosate on things, and they're done."

Barbara Mullarkey, a longtime environmental activist in Oak Park who was instrumental in the original ban on pesticides, which took effect roughly 20 years ago, was incredulous when she found out about the change.

"I thought we were trying to be a green community. How can we be a green community if we're going backwards?" Mullarkey said. "Have the Oak Park parks fallen between the cracks right now? This is turning back the time. It's bizarre to me that we have to fight a battle that we fought a long time ago."

Grandy said the park district is only using Roundup on hard areas like the infields, on tennis courts or around bricks for now, though they might consider using some other chemicals to treat weeds in the parks' fields.

Part of the new master plan for Lindberg Park includes the proposal to provide spot treatment to patches of weeds in the parks' fields.

"Given the type of areas we're looking at up at Lindberg, it's a necessary tool," Grandy said. "When the soil becomes very compacted, it becomes an environment that is very conducive for growing broad-leaf plants."

The park district would have to approve a new chemical to treat weeds in grassy areas, as Roundup will kill any plant in its path — it's not specific.

Regardless, the park district isn't planning on using pesticides near tot lots among other places, Grandy said, but they feel Roundup is safe to use on hard surfaces.

"With our high-clay soils, shortly after being used, it becomes inert," Grandy said. "We've used it specifically on our baseball infields to kill back the weeds."

Mullarkey disputes that.

"I just want to reiterate, pesticides are poison," she said. "What about the wild animals? What about the squirrels? What about the butterflies? What about the little children who are close to the ground? This is not a good sign for green Oak Park."

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Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: December 9th, 2010 1:02 PM

If baseball infields are a hard surface, it's because the Park District rarely maintains them, resulting in dry, compacted soil. A slight wind stirs up the dirt, leaving youth players and spectators (including pregnant moms) covered with soil, some of which is ingested. In a recent Scientific American article (June 23, 2009, Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells), it was found that Roundup contains polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, which is deadly to human embryonic cells.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 8th, 2010 2:03 PM

@Finally: Yeah, and those bees...did you know that they feed on clover (that dastardly weed) and dandelion? With all the hive collapses, we need every clover plant for every bee to feed upon! I live on a block where most sheeple have chosen to hire the TruChem company to poison their lawns. The result? My one neighbor with enough firing synapses to forgo this atrocity had a gorgeously green lawn dotted with white clover blossoms.


Posted: December 8th, 2010 1:28 PM

This is sad. We spent a fortune building a brand new state-of-the-art award-winning green public works centre, and now some moron thinks chemicals that kill every plant in their path are the only way to remove weeds? Why not just pull the weeds out of the ground, if they're such a problem?

Finally from Oak Park  

Posted: December 8th, 2010 10:07 AM

I remember Ms. Mullarkey's campaign to eliminate the herbicides - she promised that the weeds wouldn't overrun the parks, etc. Well, they have. OP residents have been applying herbicides to their lawns and RF parks are doing the same - and the "wild animals, squirrels, butterflies, and little children" seem to be thriving just fine.

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