For the second year, the River Forest Park District (RFPD) will manage its fields and grounds free of environmental and health concerns for children, pets, and wildlife by not applying lawn pesticides.
“The Park District strives to keep our parks a healthy place for everyone to enjoy,” said Michael Sletten, RFPD’s Executive Director. “We hope all River Forest residents follow the Park District’s example, using natural lawn care techniques in an effort to keep their lawn safe and healthy.”
This turf management program follows the passing of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy by the RFPD Board of Commissioners in April, 2016 amid rising concerns for the health and environmental risks of pesticides.
Of the 30 most used lawn pesticides, studies have linked 13 to probable or possible carcinogens, 13 to birth defects, 21 to reproductive effects, 15 to neurotoxins, and 26 to liver and kidney damage.
“Pesticide risks are of high concern for River Forest, particularly for our children who exhibit different behaviors to adults such as rolling around in the grass and putting grass in their mouths,” said Sue Crothers, member of the newly-formed River Forest Sustainability Commission and the former Sustainability Committee.
The Sustainability Committee in collaboration with the environmental non-profit Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC) spearheaded River Forest’s natural lawn care Healthy Lawn, Healthy Family (HLHF) Program that the RFPD’s IPM policy mirrors (bit.ly/RFhealthy). Both the HLHF Program and the IPM policy favor effective alternative practices and products to synthetic chemicals that create rich, vibrant soil, the essential building block for healthy grass.
“The natural lawn care approach stresses and addresses the root causes of weed and pest problems such as poor soil drainage, nutrient deficiency, or soil compaction, as opposed to the symptoms of just applying a weed or pest killing product,” said Ruth Kerzee, Executive Director of the MPAC.
To disrupt the life cycle of pests and weeds, the RFPD has heightened its mowing practices, implemented a core aeration program for the spring and fall, and instituted an 100% organic fertilization program. In addition, the RFPD and Sustainability Commission will share natural lawn care resources at key places and events including new interpretive signage installed at the pesticide free Constitution Park at Greenfield St. and Franklin Ave (See image above).
“I liken pesticide use to antibiotics. Doctors don’t recommend antibiotics as a daily supplement, but rather for use only when absolutely necessary,” Crothers said. “It’s the same with pesticides; they should only be used as a last resort in lawn maintenance. Once residents understand this, they appreciate our work and want to make the change for their own lawns.”
MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green website includes more information about natural lawn steps and practices (see bit.ly/MGGweb). For updates on the Healthy Lawn, Healthy Family Program and other River Forest natural lawn care work visit the Village’s sustainability webpage at bit.ly/RFsustain.
A couple of easy steps to manage your lawn naturally, effectively, and safely include:
- Water Deeply and Infrequently: This encourages deep root growth. Aim for one inch per week. You can easily measure that amount by placing a cup in your yard while watering. You’re done watering for the week when the cup fills one inch deep. Water early in the morning to minimize disease problems.
- Mow High: Keep your lawn mowed at three inches or higher. This increases root strength and naturally shades out weeds, so your grass withstands drought and stays green longer. Don’t mow unless needed.
- 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 provide 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, worms, and birds. The right tool makes quick work of weeding. After pulling weeds, use grass seed and soil to fill in the hole. Your grass will grow strong and healthy as a result.
Midwest Pesticide Action Center
Midwest Pesticide Action Center is the only Midwest organization dedicated to protecting people and the environment from the serious impacts of pesticides. Based in Chicago, Midwest Pesticide Action Center works to implement long-term policy changes and to develop innovative, model programs for indoor and outdoor pesticide use reduction.
For more information about Midwest Pesticide Action Center and Midwest Grows Green please visit midwestpesticideaction.org.