Some parks may exit the city’s organic program because organic treatments have not been able to keep parks healthy.
Durango City Council, during budget discussions Oct. 17, discussed removing Brookside and Folsom parks and the Riverview Sports Complex from the organic program.
Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz suggested removing Riverview and Folsom because they receive such high traffic, and it has been difficult for the organic fertilizer and herbicides to keep up.
In fact, the city’s organic consultant recommended giving Riverview a synthetic fertilizer to rescue the turf earlier this season.
The original organic park, Brookside, also may exit the program next year after becoming infested with about 50 percent weeds.
Mayor Sweetie Marbury suggested using synthetic products on Brookside because, as a neighbor, she said she feels it needs a rescue treatment.
“Brookside is deathly ill,” she said.
Brookside has been organic since 2008, and in the beginning, no organic herbicide was used on the park. Metz said this might be part of the reason why it is struggling more.
The councilors all favored continuing to treat the other six parks with organic fertilizers and herbicides. Several members said leaving those six in the program would fulfill the commitment to develop an organic-lands program that the council made in 2012. The city started implementing the project at the end of 2013 in all nine parks.
“We’re going to carry it through,” Councilor Dick White said.
The push to eliminate synthetic products was brought about by the group Organically Managed Parks Durango, which organized a ballot initiative. The initiative would have banned synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Tricia Gourly, who worked with Organically Managed Parks Durango, said she was disappointed to hear the city is considering cutting three substantial parks from the program because there is clear research that shows toxins affect children and ecosystems.
Organically Managed Parks Durango and the city also agreed on a three-year process of implementation recommended by the city’s consultant Chip Osborne, she said. This is necessary because it takes time for the soils to regain optimal health.
“We must change our rigid perspective about the appearance of some weeds in our public spaces, which was common place years ago, and allow for this natural diversity,” she said.
Taking the three parks out of the program will save $52,483 in mineral costs and $13,566 in labor, Metz said. The total cost of running the organics park program in 2014 was about $85,000.
The sports complexes make up the bulk of the cost because they require more organic minerals than the others to keep up.
In addition, park visitors had expressed concerns that Riverview and Folsom did not look healthy and posed a safety risk to players, Metz said.
A decision about the parks will not be final until the budget is approved in December. The public can comment on the budget at a City Council meeting Nov. 4.