PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Schenley Park is an urban wonder — 456 acres of natural beauty with spectacular views, wooded trails and all of the invasive insects and plants that threaten any forest.
“There’s so many invasives that come into these parks and they’re even more evident as you get into fall when you see them still growing,” said Mike Gable with Pittsburgh Public Works.
They’re a formidable enemy and for years the weapon of choice has been chemical pesticide. The spraying of potentially toxic chemicals to rid the parks of unwanted bugs and vegetation was the accepted lesser of two evils, until now.
Sheehan: Ultimately your goal is have the city go pesticide free.
Gable: That would be the goal.
Gable said Pittsburgh is joining only a handful of cities nationwide to stop using chemical pesticides — except in very rare instances — starting in the city parks.
“Where pesticide is the last choice and too often it’s the first choice. There’s other ways of dealing with the problem instead of reaching for a pesticide,” he said.
Already, park workers have changed their approach to dealing with weeds. Where in the past they would have sprayed the stone wall lining Frick Park with weedkiller — now they pull them out by hand and lay wood chips on top.
It is more labor intensive, but more environmentally friendly.
The chips come free from the park’s Forestry Division and their cover prevents weeds from returning for up to three years. Despite the extra attention to detail, park foreman Dick Wilford says workers actually prefer it.
“We don’t have to come out here with forty pounds of chemical on our backs to spray it in the middle of the summer,” he explained.
These natural methods are far better for the health and safety of the workers and the people who use the parks — especially children. The non-profit advocacy group Beyond Pesticides has been lobbying cities across the country to institute pesticide bans.
“This is not the kind environment in which we think people should grow and learn and develop,” said Jay Feldman with Beyond Pesticides.
The rules don’t apply to residential use but the city is urging it’s citizens to follow suit and use pesticides only as a last resort.