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Highland Park residents oppose pesticides on ballfields

Updated: November 16, 2011 3:41PM

HIGHLAND PARK — Residents are pleading with city park commissioners to keep chemical pesticides off the community’s athletic fields.

In August, the Park Board granted its park operations staff the go-ahead to apply one diluted treatment of a chemical herbicide to rescue the ballfields at West Ridge, Larry Fink and Danny Cunniff parks, which officials reported have become overrun with weed coverage.

When notified of the move, more than 70 residents sent e-mails to the Park Board and administration, imploring district leaders to hold onto its 4-year-old commitment to not deploy chemical pesticides. An online petition garnered more than 575 signatures against pesticides as well.

“We do have a weed situation on our athletic fields,” said Liza McElroy, Park District of Highland Park executive director.

The district already had backed off from its November pesticide application, but expressed a desire to hear more from concerned residents and experts in the turf-management industry before a final decision is made.

“Children are more vulnerable to the health risks of pesticides because they are still developing,” Highland Park resident Kim Stone told park commissioners. “Pesticides are poisons by definition; they are designed to effect vital biological processes that in most cases are not unique to the intended target pests.”

Some residents are worried about the chemicals’ infiltration into the local watershed.

Park officials explained that the athletic fields have surpassed its threshold guidelines for weed coverage, and believe the gap without pesticide treatments has contributed.

“The district’s organic products and other natural … techniques have not been effective in abating this problem,” the district stated. “Over this past summer, the Park District received numerous complaints from residents and program participants regarding the condition of these fields and the integrity of the playing surfaces.”

While pledging to continue its Integrated Pest Management program — a progressive, health-conscious, natural lawn-care model — park officials said the one-time application of herbicide Confront would help bring the fields back to optimal playability.

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