-----Original Message-----

From: Marie L. Stockett [mailto:mariels@swbell.net]

Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 7:36 AM

To: Sue Hack; mike amyx; Boog Highberger; mdever@sunflower.com; robchestnut@sunflower.com

Cc: Dave Corliss; Bobbie Walthall; Eric Weslander; jmathis@ljworld.com; clawhorn@ljworld.com; Amber Fraley

Subject: 2008 Budget Recommendations from the Pesticide-Free Parks Project


Hello Commissioners,


I am writing on behalf of the Pesticide-Free Parks Project and would

like to share with you our recommendations for improving the city's

current Pesticide-Free Parks Program.  We are very pleased with the

progress that has been made by the city in supporting and developing

this beneficial and successful program.  I understand that the city is

facing some financial worries.  However, these concerns should not

effect the Pesticide-Free Parks Program.  Not only does the program

create a healthier environment for our citizens, children, animal

companions, and wildlife, but it has been implemented for the last 5

years without placing a financial burden on the city.  According to a

memo by Parks and Recreation sent to the city commission in 2006, the

department determined that it could maintain 33 secondary parks and 1

high profile park without impacting its budget.


The Pesticide-Free Parks Project would also like to see this program

expand.  Earlier this year, we presented to the City Commission a list

of recommendations which outlined projected costs necessary to maintain

all of the city's parks without pesticides.  The information is attached

in this email.  All along, the argument made by Parks and Recreation

management against adding the remaining 18 high profile parks has been

based on its fear that the city could not afford to pay for the labor

required to hand weed the flower and shrub beds.  However, the data

collected from the 2-year pilot project in Watson Park dispelled this

myth.  For almost two complete weeding seasons, community volunteers

maintained the flower and shrub beds in Watson Park, and the labor

needed was not excessive.   The amount of labor required the first year

was quite small, and the labor needed the second year was drastically

reduced even further largely because the Parks and Recreation Department

put more emphasis on weed prevention by increasing mulch in the beds. 

The labor need also decreased because volunteers began weeding earlier

in the season so weeds did not have a chance to get out of hand.  The

first weeding season did not begin until well into July so weeds were

well established by that time.  Parks and Recreation Landscape

Supervisor Crystal Miles thanked our volunteer coordinators several

times for our efforts and said that the park looked great.


In the same Parks and Recreation memo mentioned earlier, the department

claimed that staff labor nearly tripled during the first year of the

pilot project.  There are 3 problems with this figure.


First, the number of hours that the department claims that staff spent

in years prior to the pilot project is only an estimate because accurate

records had not been kept.  When I contacted Interim Director Ernie Shaw

and asked him how the department arrived at this estimate, I was told

that getting that information to me wasn't a priority for the

department.  So as far as I can tell, either the estimate isn't based on

anything factual or the department isn't willing to work with the

community it is supposed to be serving.


Second, the department continues to resist shifting its maintenance

strategy toward weed prevention, which involves techniques like using

heavy mulch, sand, rock, or scape lime to name just a few.  Instead, the

department has preferred the technique of allowing weeds to grow and

then spraying pesticide at the problems every few weeks.  Parks and

Recreation has chosen to waste time and money on expensive organic

chemicals in hopes to replace Roundup so that the department can

continue to carry out this inefficient practice.  When Roundup and other

spray-on chemicals are applied to unwanted plants, they do tend to kill

back the above-ground portions of the plants.  However, often times

these chemicals do nothing to kill the root system so these weeds live

on to grow again, which increases the need for more labor and more



Shifting the focus toward weed prevention does require minimal hand

weeding.  In 2005, Parks Manager Mark Hecker said to the City Commission

that no one in his department wants to hand weed.  I think that his

declaration sums up where the department is today in its attitude toward

pesticide-free maintenance.


Third, these figures are from the first year of the pilot project.  As

time goes on and the Parks and Recreation Department becomes more and

more familiar and experienced with pesticide-free maintenance, labor and

expense should decrease.  This seems to be the case when comparing the

figures of the first year to the second year.


I must point out that Watson Park has a few areas with Bermuda Grass

problems.  When the pilot project began, it was obvious that these

Bermuda Grass infestations had been well established over many seasons. 

The maintenance practices up until that point, which involved applying

pesticides to these kinds of areas every three weeks or so, did nothing

to rid the park of Bermuda Grass.  If anything, this practice only

browned off the tops while leaving the root system in tact and allowing

the problem to grow and spread.  This kind of situation provides an

excellent opportunity for Parks and Recreation management to reach out

to experienced and dedicated pesticide-free experts outside their

department and to obtain the information that they need to efficiently

and effectively deal with specific issues like these.


Furthermore, we ask the City Commission to hold the Parks and Recreation

Department accountable to its commitment to make the Pesticide Record

available to the public.  The Parks and Recreation Department promised

to provide the pesticide record to the the public 2 years ago, and it

was a promise that has not been kept.   The citizens of Lawrence have

the right to know where, when and what pesticides have been applied to

public property so that they and their children can have the opportunity

to avoid exposure if they choose.


I respectfully ask that Commission review the complete list of

recommendations attached in this email, which includes issues ranging

from pesticide-free playgrounds to uniform citywide pesticide standards,

and seriously consider incorporating these ideas into city policy.  I

have also attached the 2007 Pesticide-Free Parks Project presentation

outline which was given to the Commission in March of this year. 

Because of its size, I will also send in a separate email the 150+ page

packet that the Pesticide-Free Parks Project presented to the City

Commission in 2005.  There is a great deal of background information

provided in the document regarding pesticide dangers, pesticide-free

maintenance techniques, and cost-effectiveness, which may be of benefit

to new commissioners.


I want to remind the Commission that the Pesticide-Free Parks Program

has received overwhelming community support.  The Lawrence Association

of Neighborhoods, 6 individual neighborhood associations, 3 community

organizations, an area physician, and the city's own Sustainability

Advisory Board have all come forward to officially endorse

Pesticide-Free Parks in Lawrence.  Attached is a complete list of

organizational and physician support.


I have to say, the Parks and Recreation Department has a lot to be proud

of.  They have accomplished a great deal and have maintained the city's

Pesticide-Free Parks quite well.  This year, the department is

maintaining Watson Park without the help of a volunteer program and the

park looks absolutely fantastic.  It looks even better than when it was

maintained with pesticides.  My hat goes off to the department.



Marie Stockett

Co-Coordinator of the Pesticide-Free Parks Project          


Attachments:   2007 Recommendations

                        Pesticide Free Parks Support

                        Pesticide Free Parks Project - 2007