Upper Arlington considering use of chemicals to treat athletic fields at parks
Upper Arlington City Council is expected to hold more discussion June 6 and 13 on a proposed “integrated turf management” policy designed to enhance the safety and playability of 60 acres of athletic fields in the city’s parks. The use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides will be permitted as part of a new turf-management policy for athletic fields at city parks.
While a vote currently is slated for June 13, a primary sticking point among some residents is the proposed use of pesticides and herbicides by city Parks and Recreation staff.
Under the proposal, those chemicals are “necessary tools” to enable Parks and Recreation staff to provide “quality athletic fields” to the community. They would be employed after a staff member trained in the use of pesticides and herbicides reviews field conditions for 48 hours over three weeks.
After the assessments, the policy calls for treatments of fields that are performing at the desired level – or Level 1 – only in isolated, spot areas of the fields and typically would be done during seasons when the fields are dormant.
Fields deemed to be at maintenance Level 2, or when conditions “begin requiring additional treatments to improve turf health,” according to the proposal, would receive a maximum of three rounds of spot treatment.
The proposal states that fields at maintenance Level 3 “is a more intensive program warranted by turf conditions.” Those fields would receive up to three herbicide treatment applications “if conditions necessitate their use.”
Additionally, the proposal calls Rescue Level the most intensive program for fields “impacted by a combination of existing conditions, severe weather events or use under stressful conditions.” It reportedly is intended for short-term use only, with blanket herbicide applications recommended initially.
Those falling under the Rescue Level would receive additional treatments following re-inspection. Then, “an addition of up to 35% more seed and starter fertilizer is available to help establish grass in bare spots resulting from the absence of undesired herbaceous vegetation,” the proposal states.
As part of the policy, Parks and Recreation Director Debbie McLaughlin said mowing at the fields would be increased from once a week to twice a week, and treatments would be restricted to athletic fields.
“We are talking about the athletic fields of our parks, with a small buffer and not the entire area of the park,” McLaughlin said. “What we implement will be on a field-by-field basis, not systemwide.
“A different field, event in the same park, could be treated differently.”
Parks officials promised those administering the chemicals to the fields would adhere to all Ohio Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. The proposal stated pesticide and herbicide products would be reviewed by staff “for impacts to safety, exposure, sustainability and the environment” prior to use.
Still, a number of residents turned out May 16 to voice concerns over the plan, which would be in conflict with the city’s longstanding policy against the use of pesticides and herbicides on city-owned and maintained athletic fields.