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City leaders outline nontoxic future for Oceanside parks, open spaces

Above: The Oceanside Parks & Recreation Commission plans to form a nontoxic integrated pest management (IPM) program to examine the use of harmful materials and the potential impacts on residents, particularly children. Courtesy photo

OCEANSIDE — Earlier this month, council approved a work plan outlining projects proposed for the city’s parks, open spaces and recreation facilities, including a new goal to stop using pesticides and other toxic materials.

“It’s been about 25 years since (the work plan) was revised,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bill Loftus at the June 5 council meeting.

The plan lists eight specific goals the commission has for the parks and recreation program from this year to 2021.

One of those goals would include the commission making recommendations for council to consider regarding capital improvement projects.

Those recommendations include but are not limited to a new deck, pool plaster and shade structures for the Brook Street pool; a prioritized list for replacing aging playgrounds; and additional lighting at facilities for increased safety.

Another goal listed is the implementation of a nontoxic integrated pest management (IPM) program.

According to Loftus, the commission has been approached by several residents concerned about the use of potentially harmful materials and the impacts they could have on the people using those facilities, particularly children.

In March, the Parks and Recreation Commission formed an ad hoc committee to study spraying materials such as pesticides and herbicides at public facilities throughout the city.

“Recently we discovered the city of Oceanside really doesn’t have a written policy in regard to the use of pesticides that may or may not be toxic,” Loftus said.

Loftus also asked council to wait to approve any contracts with companies that would use such materials until the IPM could be postponed until an IPM is formed.

An IPM would include finding and recommending organic alternatives to pesticides, such as using steam technology to kill weeds instead. 

Over the last several months, residents have also approached council about stopping the use of pesticides in city parks and facilities. Two of those people are Suzanne Hume and John Bottorff, founders of CleanEarth4Kids.org, a group that promotes clean air and water policies in the North County area.

Hume, who refers to herself as a “pesticide survivor,” has told council in the past about how pesticides sprayed near her home in Oceanside burned her lungs, resulting in her hospitalization and eventually forcing her to move. Her experience as well as her teaching background inspired her to start CleanEarth4Kids.org.

“I didn’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through,” she said.

Council also received a letter with 661 signatures calling upon the city to enact a policy that would stop the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizer and other similar chemicals on public land.

Advocates for stopping the use of pesticides argue that it would not only protect children but also city workers and general members of the public.

Those same advocates also reason that such a policy would safeguard the city from legal action and benefit the environment.

“Most of these chemicals are still in our environment 40 years later,” Bottorff said. “The only way we can move past that and protect children’s lives and keep kids from getting cancers and all these other health problems is to stop using toxins in our daily lives.”

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