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School Pesticide Policy is Different Than the Village's

Youth sports organizations wanting to spray pesticides are held to two different standards, depending who owns the field.

The policies over how public lands are cared for in the village can sometimes be complicated to understand.

The village government controls , part of and most other parks in the village, but the school district controls and the community park. The district also provides natural turf maintenance at and the playing fields at Cahill.

Youth sports organizations also play a role in keeping up parks. Junior Dukes football pays $3,000 to the school district to rent the Lydell community park, $5,500 to the landscaper for turf maintenance and volunteers 200 hours to water the field. The Whitefish Bay Soccer Club spends $7,000 to use a variety of parks in the village and volunteers 100 hours.

To make things even more complicated, when sports organizations like Junior Dukes or Friends of Bay Baseball want to spray pesticides on public fields, the request sometimes goes to the village or the school district, depending on who owns the properties. And each of those bodies has different standards when deciding to approve the request.

This issue came to light in May, when the village approved Friends of Bay Baseball's at Cahill Park, which is partly maintained by the district.

Given the renewed discussion on the use of pesticides, the School Board's Building and Grounds Committee met last week to review and reaffirm the district's policy, which is more strict than the village's policy, as it does not allow spraying for aesthetic reasons.

In 2004, the school district was one of the first in the state to adopt an integrated pest management program, which is now required of all school districts. From the policy:

IPM is "a decision-making process that uses all available pest management strategies to prevent economically damaging pest outbreaks while reducing risks to human health and the environment. It encourages the use of all available techniques and does not rely on a single-method approach."

Under the IPM, the school district has only authorized a "handful" of spot treatments in the past several years for poison ivy, knotweed and Creeping Charlie, which are more difficult to weed. Some of those weeds cause respiratory problems, and they also choke off new grass from growing.

Last year, Junior Dukes football sprayed Lydell within state protocol but did not fall within the IPM. The district clarified the protocol of the IPM this year.

Whitefish Bay Superintendent Mary Gavigan said the IPM means avoiding pesticides whenever possible.

"The district is truly dedicated to doing everything we can to avoid spraying but recognize there are also competing priorities," she said. "You also have to keep fields safe. They are in extremely high demand, and there is a shortage of green space."

Amy Joyce, the co-founder of the Healthy Communities Project, which has worked with district for 12 years to try to limit pesticides, said the IPM leaves subjectivity in determining when a field is unsafe.

"At the end of the day, what qualifies as something that requires pesticide application?" Joyce asked at the meeting.

While the district's plan tries to limit pesticide exposures, the village has historically used pesticides for aesthetic reasons in parks, boulevards and medians. After , the village decided to do one annual spraying this year — which is still a reduction from the previous practice of spraying four times per year.

Village, district in discussions

The difference in political policy over shared lands caught the attention of School Board member Michael Mosner, who suggested Superintendent Gavigan talk with Village Manager Patrick DeGrave about a possible common denominator in pesticide policy.

"We have tight space issues, and a lot of different governing bodies, but if everybody had the same plan this wouldn't be so confusing," Mosner said.

Gavigan did meet with DeGrave to talk about the village's pesticides policies, and because the school district's pesticide notifications are currently limited to school parents, DeGrave offered to use the village's email blast system to help the school district reach a broader audience.

DeGrave said the school district and village did not reach a shared policy, but the two bodies will continue to communicate with each other about pesticides.

"We have and will continue to be in regular communication in all policy areas to take advantage of economies of scale and possible areas of collaboration," DeGrave said.

After years of committees studying turf care possibilities, Shawn Yde, the district's director of business services, said the over-arching challenge facing Whitefish Bay's parks is the limited amount of green space in the village and the growing number of athletic groups that are using the field. The high-impact activities and the lack of rest makes the need for decompacting the field through aeration and aerovation highly important, Yde said.

"We just have too little green space for too many kids," Yde said.

What's next

If you are interested in learning more about pesticides or sharing your opinion on the matter, the Village Board will host a listening session in the board room at Village Hall at 6:30 p.m. July 16. The current turf management plan was approved by the board on April 16.

Gardenlady July 08, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Looking at my water bill before the drought, I can't help but wonder how much watering the Lydell field costs. It must be in the thousands of dollars very easily. I am expecting a $300-400 bill for this quarter for my tiny lawn and garden. Lydell being more than 10x the size of my lawn, it sure must add up, and we should not omit this cost when we talk about how much "free" work we are getting. Also, with over 90 volunteers at a recently held weed-out at Klode, where volunteers spent up to 2 hours each, that group of volunteers has nearly matched or greatly exceeded the annual donation of time by the current groups. Clearly, there are lots of folks dedicated to preserving our natural spaces and they are willing to spend their own time doing it whether or not they are enriched through a contract with the school district or village.
Gardenlady July 08, 2012 at 12:02 AM
With water rates scheduled for a 38% jump, just go ahead and round up that water bill to $10,000/year.
stopthemadness July 08, 2012 at 04:33 PM
@AWD. Really? What are the obstructions the pesticide are keeping kids from tripping and injuring themselves on? Not sure I've ever heard of a kid injuring themselves on weeds. And the reason the ground is so hard isn't due to lack of pesticides its cause it hast rained in like a month and a half.
Gardenlady July 09, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I am sure that if these problems are so widespread there has been ample coverage these events. Please post the stories so that we may educate ourselves about dangerous weeds and garbage dumps. I guess that means all of Canada, New York State, and Connecticut are garbage dumps.
aaaaaa July 09, 2012 at 01:14 PM
What happened to the volunteer effort to "adopt a bed/planting area" in area parks and schools in the village? I contacted the person in charge last year to take a bed near my house and keep it weed-free and watered and was never called back.
Just the Facts July 09, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Garden lady is smoking some thing from the garden! The Jr. Dukes program pays almost 10,000 per year, plus 200 hours of their time.On top of that get multiple thousands of hours of help from coaches, team mangers, and others. My guess is if gardenlady wanted to maintain the field, and kept it in good shape, NO KLODE SHAPE! the Jr. Dukes would let them....

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