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"Chemical-free" Park Experiment Could Spread Like Weeds

PHOTO: A group of neighbors in Boise interested in a pesticide-free park is volunteering and recruiting others to help pull weeds on the weekends. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
PHOTO: A group of neighbors in Boise interested in a pesticide-free park is volunteering and recruiting others to help pull weeds on the weekends. Photo credit: Deborah C. Smith
May 19, 2014

BOISE, Idaho - There's an experiment going on in Boise that's really "down in the weeds." A group of neighbors interested in having a pesticide-free city park is volunteering and recruiting others to help pull weeds on the weekends in Memorial Park. Boise Parks and Recreation Horticulture Unit manager Mike Woodward says the discussions have been interesting.

"You've got the groups that say, 'I don't care if this park is nothing but weeds, I'm OK with that. I just don't want any chemicals sprayed.' And then we've got the other groups that said, 'No, I want a nice, manicured lawn.' You know, we've got to reach that happy medium," Woodward says.

Boise Parks Department has long employed integrated pest management practices in order to use as few pesticides as possible, which is good for both the environment and the city's pocketbook. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) is helping to coordinate the "chemical-free" project. If it is successful, it may be replicated in other parks.

Woodward says when pesticides are not used, weeds still need to be controlled, and it takes more manpower than the department has available.

"In order to manage the park and make it look good, it's going to require commitment from the neighbors or from the folks who are really interested in that, to come out and help us keep those weeds to a manageable level," he adds.

There is one caveat, however. While general pesticides are not being used this summer, there will be two applications in the park to control Japanese beetles, a particularly destructive insect.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID