GREEN: City officials believe parents shouldn’t have to worry that their kids are playing in parks that have been treated with synthetic and potentially toxic weed killers.
Officials realize that aesthetically, the trade-off might mean ball fields don’t appear quite so well manicured. But parents shouldn’t need to weigh the risk of allowing their kids on a soccer field that could harm their health, said Mike Elkins, superintendent of Green’s Parks and Recreation Division.
“As a supervisor watching these kids, I don’t want them to show up at a park and see green flags [indicating it has been sprayed with pesticides] or see a haze of chemicals over our athletic fields. We need to be proactive in providing a safe environment for our children and adults to play,” he said.
Playing surfaces in city parks, including soccer, baseball, football and lacrosse fields, get treated three times a year, in part with a nitrogen-rich, commercially treated fertilizer that farmers have used for eons: poultry poop.
Fields also are treated once a year with a dry, synthetic herbicide to slow the growth of crabgrass in the summer months.
“It is applied in early spring early in the morning. Any risk is gone before children are on the fields,” Elkins said.
Other city-owned green areas, including lawns around playgrounds, are left “au naturel,” whether the grass looks picture perfect or yellow dandelions dot the landscape, he said.
Elkins said he also makes sure that products his department uses in city parks do not adversely affect stormwater runoff that can leach into the water supply.
A recent study into the use of the synthetic herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient found in many popular weed killers, indicates the chemical has been linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, infertility and cancers.
The report, published this month in the online journal Entropy, said evidence indicates glyphosate residue has been found in food.
As part of Mayor Dick Norton’s directive to make Green “greener” several years ago, the city began using only nontoxic, synthetic-free preparations that do not contain glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the United States, Elkins said.
Last year, Norton appointed a committee of residents, city leaders and business representatives to the Living Green Task Force to help guide the city in the use of careful stewardship to develop sustainable resources. The committee has been charged with defining sustainability and identifying what it looks like to residents of Green, said Community Development Director Sarah Haring, a member of the task force.
“We are committed to being good stewards of city resources, not only for now, but for future generations,” she said.
A task force-sponsored workshop to demonstrate how to make and use rain barrels was so popular, registration had to be closed after more than 100 people signed up to take the class.
More than 300 residents responded to a survey published at the end of March to help identify what resources they feel need to be conserved, Haring said.
“We are trying to evaluate what resources matter the most to the folks in Green,” she said.
The city is establishing rain gardens by collecting rainwater from city-owned buildings to use in planting beds. Water from a cistern outside the main fire station on Massillon Road is piped underground for use in the sprinkler system at the Veterans Park.
Energy-saving LED lights that should last five years before they need to be replaced have been installed at intersections, parks and all school flashing signs, Deputy Service Director Paul Oberdorfer said.
“They will have a lot longer service life and are 75 percent more efficient,” he said.
The city is conducting 22 initiatives to make Green more environmentally “greener” and is considering another seven — from recycling asphalt for road resurfacing to community gardening.
“It’s the mission of the mayor for us to be energy independent and not fall behind the rest of the county — to be a trendsetter,” Oberdorfer said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.