Earth Notes - Durango's Chemical-Free Park

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Durango's Chemical-Free Park

A small city park in Durango, Colorado, has kicked the habit. In June of 2007, Brookside Park, popular with kids and ducks alike, went chemical-free.

Gone are the herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers that once kept the grass green and free of weeds. These conventional methods of caring for grass have been replaced by kinder, gentler methods that don't threaten the integrity of soil, the health of wildlife, or the well-being of the most vulnerable park users: children.

Once each summer members of a local environmental group named the Turtle Lake Refuge fertilize the grass through an application of compost tea. The same group organizes several weed-pulling parties each season.

After three years without chemical use, the park will qualify as a certified organic plot, and Turtle Lake Refuge members will begin harvesting edible weeds to add to the gourmet dishes they serve in their caf .

The rest of Durango is sometimes sprayed with permethrin, an insecticide mainly targeting mosquitoes. But Brookside Park will always be passed by. Instead, bat boxes have been installed in hopes of attracting winged insect eaters.

Durango isn't the only city to experiment with caring for a park without synthetic chemicals. Cities from San Francisco to Wichita have instituted similar programs.

But the best measures of the park's success are local. They're in parents' smiles, and in the happy cries of kids romping barefoot and when a plantain leaf finds its way into a child's mouth, well, it's just extra fiber.

-Rachel Turiel Hinds