2013-01-18 / Front Page

Pesticide transition continues

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Scarborough is in the midst of a transition from a synthetic pesticides program to an organic one free of dangerous man-made products.

On Monday, Jan. 14, the Scarborough Conservation Commission and the Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee hosted a forum to educate the public about the benefits of the organic approach and to update them on how the transition was going thus far.

“Our role is to really increase awareness of the value of natural resources in town and work to reduce potential damage to the resources,” said Peter Slovinsky, chairman of the conservation commission.

Much of the education about the dangers of synthetic pesticides has been spearheaded by Citizens for a Green Scarborough, a group started in January 2011 by concerned parents and community members.

Marla Zando, one of the group’s founders and a member of the Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee, said she began to look into the possibility of Scarborough adopting an organics-only policy on town-owned properties in 2010 after she read an article by Paul Tukey, a safe lawn advocate. Of particular concern, she said, was the impact synthetic pesticides had on children and wildlife.

“The negative impacts are amplified in the bodies of children,” Zando said. She connected with Karen D’Andrea, a former town councilor, Eddie Woodin, a lifelong birder and Mark Follansbee, a toxicologist, to look into to the issue and bring it to the Town Council’s ordinance committee.

On Sept. 21, 2011, a policy to restrict the use of synthetic pesticides in town parks, schools and other municipal properties was passed by the Town Council. In spring 2012, Town Councilor Richard Sullivan attempted to reverse the policy, but the effort fell short.

The policy states that Scarborough “refrain from the use of pesticides upon property it owns, uses or controls, except in situations that pose an imminent threat of serious injury to persons, property or agriculture.” The policy also outlines posting and notification requirements should pesticides, organic, or otherwise, be used.

The Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee was formed to enforce the policy and approve the products and applications made to town-owned property.

“This policy is protecting our children and animals, our signature marsh and beaches, our shellfish community and the soil below our turf fields,” Zando said.

In late May, the town awarded a yearlong contract to Dave Melevsky, president of Go Green Landscaping, to maintain town property using an organic approach. Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said the contract with Go Green Landscaping runs through May 2013, but has a one-year renewal option.

Hall said $91,000 had been budgeted for athletic fields maintenance, including $75,000 for turf management. To date, Hall said $91,400 has been spent. He expects spending an additional $12,000 for the spring application for the fields. A number of unexpected costs, such as $8,800 for additional grub treatments at Wiley Recreation Facility and Scarborough Middle School fields, drove up the costs.

“We can expect to spend an additional $12,000 on turf management through the end of the fiscal year, so it is incumbent on myself and staff to find resources to cover that overage,” Hall said.

Melevsky said he is happy about what has been accomplished to date.

“Overall the transition has gone well. I am very happy with the results,” Melevsky said. “The fields are healthy, they are progressing quickly and they are safe.”

Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, a natural turf management company in Marblehead, Mass., said he has been impressed with how well the fields in Scarborough have taken to the organic approach from when he first saw the fields in May 2012 to October 2012, when he took photographs. Osborne, an expert on organic pest management, was invited to be the guest speaker at the forum.

Osborne said the organic approach, which only uses products derived from nature, is scientifically based and puts a “system in place so problems don’t get out of control.” Just like synthetic products, Osborne said organic products have to be used correctly and managed properly.

Osborne has extensive experience in both synthetic and organic approaches. Osborne used synthetic pesticides for 20 years while operating a commercial greenhouse, before abandoning them in the mid-1990s, when he began to question the safety of such products.

He said whether people agree with the synthetic pest management approach or not, the market is changing and organic products are becoming more popular.

Jeff O’Donal, who operates O’Donal’s Nursery on County Road, said his store is an example of that. He said O’Donal’s Nursery used to have an entire room of synthetic pesticides. Now the stock has been reduced to a single shelf of synthetic pesticide and organic products take up much more space.

Woodin said he has seen greener fields as a result of the organic turf management, which could serve as an example for other communities across the state.

“Scarborough is the epicenter of athletics and to see the town go organic and have the fields stand up sends a great message statewide,” Woodin said, adding a legislator from Falmouth is interested in proposing a statewide resolution that bans synthetic products on town/school properties.

John Cole, a member of the Scarborough Board of Education, thanked the members of Citizens for a Green Scarborough and the pest management advisory committee for the work they have done. However, Cole said he hopes the effort goes further.

“Twenty or 30 years from now, our children will be the benefactors of what we are doing now and what we continue to do,” Cole said. “I would like to see (the policy) extended to all homeowners.”

Encouraging homeowners to adopt a pesticide-free approach to their lawn care is one of the goals Citizens for a Green Scarborough came up with in October, when a group of citizens came together at the Scarborough Public Library to outline a new environmental vision for Scarborough.

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