Parks and rec

Local parks going chemical free

Volunteers from Bee Habitat gathered to document plant life at Idlewild Park Terrace on Aug. 30.

Volunteers from Bee Habitat gathered to document plant life at Idlewild Park Terrace on Aug. 30.

Photo/Sage Leehey

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Members of the local organization Bee Habitat cringe at the sight of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals being sprayed, especially in local parks, so they decided to do something about it. Now they have 28 parks—27 in Sparks and one in Reno—that will be converted to the pesticide-free designation.

Bee Habitat will also be doing the conversion work on these parks, including assessing the current situations, bioremediation to rid the existent soil and plants of chemicals, permaculture design and new planting. The work started Aug. 30 at the Reno park, Idlewild Park Terrace. Volunteers from the organization came out to assess the current state of the park.

“Every department has their own set of chemicals,” Sandy Rowley of Bee Habitat said. “It’s not just pesticides and herbicides. It’s fungicides, adulticides [for mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus]. And each department isn’t aware of what the other department has already sprayed in that area. … So we sat down [with Sparks, Reno and Washoe County officials] and our goal was to say that there are other solutions out there. There are other cities that have converted to pesticide-free in the country, so I know that we can do this. And at the end of the meeting, we had 28 parks.”

The group has already hired a permaculture designer—Jana Vanderhaar—for the parks. Permaculture design is a way to design agriculture and landscaping of an area sustainably. Bee Habitat has also purchased organic plants and other materials in order to get this project going.

Because of the work and funding the group has already put into this project—about $2,000 of members’ own money—the group has asked for official letters from both cities stating that they will not spray or use chemicals of any kind on these parks, even though they have already been told in meetings that this is the case. Rowley doesn’t want their hard work to go to waste.

One of the main reasons Bee Habitat is so concerned with pesticides is because of the effect they are believed to have on bees. Many believe that pesticides with neonicotinoids are the main cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. If bees continue disappearing, as they have been rapidly since 2006, we all could end up hungry. Bees are one of the main pollinators of many food crops. (“Buzz kill,” RN&R Aug. 8, 2013.) The neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, is the most commonly used insecticide in the world.

“It travels in the soil, so if you’re trying to have an organic yard … if your neighbor has plants that have been treated with neonics or they’re using Roundup or other products, and it rains … it ends up in your yard, it ends up in the waterways,” Rowley said. “It isn’t just big agriculture doing this.”

Many of these chemicals are also potentially dangerous to humans as well, especially those with weakened immune systems, and since there is no existing way to check when areas are sprayed with these chemicals, Rowley worries about children and others in parks and other local areas.

“We’re currently working with Eric Crump, who is in Washoe County Parks and Rec, to get one centralized database, for their own employees’ safety as well, that says who sprayed what, when, why, where and how much it cost,” Rowley said. “And that way, when another department sees a problem and wants to spray with TD4 or whatever chemical it is, they’re not going right after the Washoe County Health Department sprayed adulticide or anything like that.”