City to use organic pesticides on parks, other public property

CARLSBAD — The City Council unanimously approved an updated Integrated Pest Management Plan concerning the use of organic pesticides on Dec. 5.

At the meeting the council heard nearly one hour of public comment plus a spirited discussion regarding six options brought forth by city staff.

In the end, the city approved a phased integration of all city-owned properties and rights of way through option 3a. About 20 residents, several of whom are part of Non Toxic Carlsbad, urged the council to vote for 3a.

While chemical pesticides will be eliminated in time, the city still could return to those methods under the plan if the organic pesticides cannot productively address measures with pests and other ground maintenance.

“Health and safety is always going to drive us,” said Carlsbad Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine, who was present for the staff report to the council. “If we ever find ourselves in a position where these organic products aren’t working, we do have the flexibility within this IPM to go in and use the tried and true methodologies we’ve used in the past.”

The city has 1,162 acres of land, 19,000 trees, 47 miles of trails, 58 buildings and The Crossings golf course under its ownership.

Additionally, the city has engaged in a pilot program over the past 15 months using organics at 10 school sites in the city, according to Parks Services Manager Kyle Lancaster.

The council was also concerned about the condition of the fields from current pesticides and usage, but Hazeltine said any issues stem from rodents and turf clumping due to high use and not a health and safety hazard.

As for the application of the organic pesticides, he said it will take time to see how the areas will react.

“We are exploring the use of new products, frequency of use and how sites will react to organic products,” Hazeltine said. “We’re not sure how fields and soils will react to use of different products.”

Mary Ann Viney, a former chemist, and Bob Johnson, both members of Non Toxic Carlsbad, spoke about the benefits of the organic products.

Viney, whose group worked with Hazeltine to craft option 3a, said it is important to protect kids playing in the fields. She said she had concerns around RoundUp, a popular pesticide, in which one of the active ingredients has been labeled a carcinogen by the state of California.

Johnson, a former city of Irvine employee, said his group worked with the Irvine Unified School District and the city to implement an organic solution. Johnson said the cost rose 5.6 percent, but watering the fields has been reduced from daily to twice a week and he expects costs to lower now that the appropriate applicants are being used.

“It’s a total transformation,” he said. “It’s been in place for 18 months, and the IUSD budget went up 5.6 percent because of testing different products. I think the price will go down, especially with less watering.”

Councilman Michael Schumacher questioned why not they weren’t starting with option 2b, which implements the organics immediately and would still allow for city staff to conduct its research as the products are applied.

“I think if we’re going to move on it, I think we should move on it a little sooner rather than later,” he said.

Regardless, he voted for option 3a, while others noted the city still has the flexibility to adjust depending on the results.

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