The people of Minneapolis deserve pesticide free spaces to live and play. Our parks should be safe for people, pets, and pollinators and that’s why I am serious about the elimination of pesticides in our park system. I have a plan and I’m eager to strategize with staff and experts as we work on pesticide elimination in our parks.
Together our community is growing pesticide free, people powered parks!
How would you like to be involved with the plan?
STEP 1: Pesticide Elimination Committee - Partner with Minneapolis Public Schools
By the MPRB’s definition pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and any other chemical used to kill living creatures in the landscape. My first step will be to ask other commissioners to vote with me to establish a pesticide elimination committee. This committee will be charged with developing and implementing a 4-5 year transition plan and will be directed to work with the Pesticide Free Schools committee that was established earlier in the year by Minneapolis Public Schools. The parks pesticide elimination committee will need to include boots on the ground staff as well a top-level staff responsible for departments that currently use pesticides in our park system. The committee will also include park users and activists who are seeking an end to pesticide use in the city.
STEP 2: Data Driven Decisions - Blanket Bans on Highest Risk Applications
Once our committee is up and running we will request data from both the parks and school system on the uses of pesticides to date. In order to shift away from pesticides it is important for everyone to be on the same page about the extent of the uses of pesticides currently. After we have the data in hand I will likely move for a blanket ban on 2 pesticides that our park system uses in abundance, Roundup and 2-4d. Both Roundup and 2-4d are highly toxic, controversial pesticides that we can eliminate immediately. Last week the European Parliament voted to support a ban on what is perhaps the most controversial pesticide in the world, Roundup, because it causes cancer. 2-4d is highly controversial because it is spread in pellet form and birds mistake these pellets for seeds and eat them causing the birds to be poisoned. After we look at the lists of pesticides currently being used by our parks and schools there may be additional pesticides that need to be considered for immediate blanket bans.
STEP 3: Review Demands - Seek Education & Expertise
The next step will be to work with departments to define the problems we face that we currently use pesticides to deal with. As we get a sense of the scope and scale of the landscape management issues faced by our park system, we’ll better understand the areas of greatest need for a transition plan. Determining the scope of pesticide use will also help us determine the appropriate educational resources that will be required to facilitate a transition.
STEP 4: Informed Policy & Funding Plan - Uplift Employees with Training - Develop Leaders
With our list of landscaping issues and pesticide uses in hand we’ll seek advice and consultation from soil health and pesticide elimination experts. Within 6 months after our pesticide transition / elimination team has begun meeting I will work towards a policy and funding plan for soil health and pesticide elimination training for all staff who work with pesticides currently. As strategies for eliminating pesticides are implemented I will work with the board to support and uplift the MPRB employees who with their new training will become our leaders in pesticide free landscape management. Along the way throughout transition away from pesticides I’d like us to work to educate the community on our efforts and strategies so community members can join in eliminating pesticides from our city environment.
My Background Experience - Scientific Research & Hands on Experimentation
Planning for a pesticide free park system is only a part of the work that I’ve engaged in towards growing pesticide free parks and schools. Recognizing that we need commissioners who themselves have a background in pesticide elimination and soil health in order to facilitate a full transition I have worked for the last 3 years to become educated in science based strategies for pesticide free management. In the course of my training I’ve learned how to assess and manage soil microbial communities that support plant health and reduce weed and pest pressure. Over the last few months I’ve taken my training into the real world by performing an experiment at home.
I haven’t written about this yet, but I’ve been experimenting on my boulevard with natural, soil health based strategies for eliminating pesticides in lawns. Lawns are the biggest user of pesticides in our park system. Golf course and premier ball field lawns are regularly treated with herbicides such as 2-4d and Roundup so they are likely to represent the largest uses of pesticides in our park system. I wanted to be prepared to lead a transition away from these pesticides so I have used my own boulevard as a space for experimenting with the techniques that we’ll likely use as we learn to eliminate pesticides. I chose the boulevard because it’s one of the most difficult spaces to grow healthy, weed free lawns.
In my experiment I’ve tracked data ranging from the variety and biomass of living soil microbial creatures such as bacteria, fungus, nematodes, micro-arthropods, and amoebae. I’ve also tracked data that shows water infiltration per minute and soil compaction. Since lawns are all about that clean, weed free look I’ve also been tracking the aesthetic look of the space in photographs. All of these data points have been tracked throughout the growing season because these are some of the same data points that organic farmers who manage soil microbial health utilize in their work. Every two weeks since the beginning of July I’ve gotten up early on Saturday mornings before I go out door knocking and taken microscope, soil compaction, and water infiltration measurements in the lawn on my boulevard. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts for paying such close attention to the boulevard lawn.
I’m happy to report that in the course of my short experiment I was able to reduce weeds by more than 90% without using any poisons. I was able to reestablish grass on barren parts of the lawn, and I’m seeing water infiltrate into the ground at rates about twice as fast as when I started the experiment. In other words I’ve transitioned a part of my lawn in much the same way that we’ll need to transition our golf courses and premier ball fields. I did this so that as a commissioner I will be able to understand the methods and desired outcomes of pesticide elimination strategies that we will likely employ if our park board votes to form a pesticide elimination committee.
The people of Minneapolis deserve pesticide free spaces to live and play. Our parks should be safe for people, pets, and pollinators and that’s why I am serious about the elimination of pesticides in our park system. I have a plan and I’m eager to strategize with staff and experts as we work on pesticide elimination in our parks. Together our community is growing pesticide free, people powered parks!