PANNA: California Town Bans Pesticides on City Properties


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California Town Bans Pesticides on City Properties
March 10, 2000

By a unanimous vote, the Arcata City Council passed an ordinance to eliminate use of pesticides on all properties owned or managed by the city. The ordinance is unique among California cities in that it creates an outright ban on all pesticide use, rather than a phased reduction. For the past 15 years, Arcata, a town of 16,000 on the Northern California coast, has had an informal ban on pesticides, but this policy was made official in February of this year.

The ordinance directs city staff to create a pest control management plan that establishes all permissible pest control materials and methods, emphasizing preventative measures such as building techniques to keep pests out and using non-toxic commercial sanitation products. In addition, a plan will be developed to educate the public and private property owners about these non-toxic methods. In the ordinance, the definition of pesticides includes fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, nematicides, rodenticides, dessicants, defoliants and other materials used to kill pests.

"Arcata is proving that pest problems can be solved without harming people or the environment," said Jennifer Hanan, Arcata Vice Mayor. "This will surely serve as a model for other cities that care about their community's health and safety."

Arcata has experimented with maintaining its parks and facilities without pesticides since a moratorium was first proposed. The city's semi-pro baseball field is managed completely without herbicides or other pesticides. Special tarps covering infield dirt retard weed growth between games, and tailored lawn mowing cycles fight weeds before they become established. To eliminate use of herbicides, a special street sweeper sucks dirt out of pavement cracks to discourage weed growth. To control rodents, park maintenance crews use traps rather than hazardous pesticides.

From a management perspective, it is actually easier not to use pesticides, according to Arcata's Park Superintendent. The amount of training and paperwork that is required for pesticide use is very time consuming, and cultural maintenance practices for grass -- such as timely mowing and irrigation in addition to aeration and thatching -- can be just as effective.

"Arcata once sprayed herbicides on city streets and on trees and lawns in its parks," said Patty Clary of Arcata-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, which helped draft the new ordinance. "Change wasn't easy, but it was successful. We're happy to see this city create an outstanding program that other cities can adopt for their own use."

Source/contact: Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, P.O. Box 1195, Arcata, CA 95518; phone (707) 822-8497; fax (707) 822-7136; email
catz@reininet.com; http://www.reninet.com/catz.
The City of Arcata, attn: Jennifer Hanan, 736 F Street, Arcata, CA 95521; phone (707) 822-5953; fax (707) 822-8018;
jenhanan@hotmail.com.

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