Eugene Considers Making Some Parks Pesticide-Free

Article excerpt

Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

Are you irritated at your neighbor who allows her copious dandelion fluff to tumble onto your pristine lawn, spreading its pesky seeds?

Or are you the guy who's traumatized by a neighbor who regularly carpet bombs his yard with poisons to ensure that every blade of weed be gone, gone, gone?

Imagine how it will be for the city of Eugene as it tries to bridge this divide. The parks maintenance staff is on the verge of declaring about a half-dozen small parks as pesticide-free zones.

Officials are trying to gauge whether Eugene residents must have every park pristine-looking, or if - in the name of sending less poison into the air and soil - people can tolerate some increased weediness around trees and along fence lines.

"We want to start relatively small and then evaluate about a year from now: Did it work for us? Did it work for the neighbors? Should we do the same thing again? Should we expand it?" said Kevin Finney, Eugene parks maintenance manager.

The Eugene-based Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to pesticides urged the city to designate some pesticide-free parks.

The coalition's new report "Pesticide-free parks: It's time," contends that all pesticides - an overall term referring to both insecticides and herbicides - can hurt people, pets and the environment.

To support their view, they point to an April 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Researchers found that terriers who were exposed to the common lawn herbicide 2,4-D were four to seven times more likely to contract bladder cancer than terriers in a control group.

The Purdue University authors theorize that the terriers carry a gene that makes them susceptible to the cancer - and that some people are likely carry a similar gene.

Finney said he doesn't know whether the herbicides the city uses causes harm to people or pets. Researchers have produced contradictory evidence on many commonly used chemicals, he said.

"Some people have proposed the precautionary principle: If you don't know, you don't use. But that's a community-level decision," he said.

In fall 2004, the coalition - which also works in Washington, Northern California, Idaho and Montana - convinced the city of Portland to make three small parks - Arbor Lodge, Lair Hill, and Sewallcrest - pesticide-free.

"People want pesticide-free parks. They want places they can go with their children and pets where they won't be exposed to pesticides," said Megan Kemple, the coalition's pesticide-free parks coordinator.

"We would like to see all of Eugene's parks be pesticide free. And we're glad the city is ready to move forward," she added. …