Chicago Park District Continues to Limit Use of Pesticides

For the fifth year, the Chicago Park District is partnering with Midwest Pesticide Action Center to offer park visitors a safer and healthier park by limiting the use of pesticides in our parks. Each spring, residents may see dandelions growing in neighborhood parks throughout Chicago, signifying a chemical-free park that’s safe for play. 

“The Park District strives to keep our Chicago parks a healthy place for everyone,” said Mike Kelly, Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO. “We are encouraging all Chicago residents to follow the Park District’s example and use more natural lawn care techniques that will keep your lawn safe and healthy.”


To minimize the negative environmental impact of pesticides, close to 90 percent of Chicago parks avoid the use of chemicals that are sprayed to control weeds. Following natural lawn care basics, the Park District mows turf grass to keep weeds down, keeping the grass three inches high. This allows the roots to grow strong and access water deep in the ground, resulting in taller grass that naturally shades out some weeds. Even after being cut, dandelion flowers are persistent and sometimes grow back overnight. However, the sight of dandelions indicates the grass is safe for all park patrons to play on and enjoy.

“Midwest Pesticide Action Center applauds the Chicago Park District’s commitment to limit the use of pesticides in order to create healthy places to play,” says Ruth Kerzee, Executive Director of Midwest Pesticide Action Center.  “Follow these four simple and cost-effective tips, and you too can enjoy a beautiful yard that is safe for children, pets, and the environment.”
  • Water Deeply and Infrequently:  This encourages deep root growth.  One inch per week is ideal.  You can easily measure that amount by placing a cup in your yard while watering.  When your sprinkler fills it one inch deep, your watering for the week is done.  Water early in the morning to minimize disease problems.
  • Mow High:  Keep your lawn mowed at three inches or higher.  This will increase the root strength and naturally shade out weeds.  Don’t mow your lawn unless it needs it.  This creates healthy grass that can withstand drought and stay green longer.
  • Use Organic Fertilizer:  Commercial fertilizers easily wash away, polluting nearby lakes and streams.  Many contain toxic weed killers.  Choose an organic fertilizer to capture and deliver nutrients in the lawn throughout the growing season.  Keep grass clippings on the lawn as they are an excellent natural fertilizer.
  • Weed Naturally:  Proper lawn care maintenance naturally eliminates most weeds.  Annual reseeding gives grass an advantage over weeds. Avoid using pesticides, as they can harm other beneficial living things such as bees, birds and fish.  The right tool makes quick work of weeding. After pulling weeds, use grass seed and soil to fill in the hole.  Your lawn will be strong and healthy as a result.
Healthy Parks Campaign
​Our A Healthy Park is a Natural Park campaign is an outreach initiative designed to help communities adopt sustainable landscape maintenance practices that do not rely on the use of toxic chemicals. Learn more about it here.