BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Parks and Recreation Department is planning to embark on a multi-year pilot program to study alternative techniques to reduce the use of pesticides on city-owned property. The department is using the program, which will begin this spring, to promote sustainable practices on the more than 1,600 acres of park land and 5,000 acres of open space.
“We believe we can continue to move the needle in reducing the amount of pesticides we use,” said Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway. “We are committed to innovating and trying new things and want to use this program to gather useful data on park maintenance strategies that can inform the next update to our pest management plan city-wide.”
The goal of the pilot program is use a variety of methods to manage grass, soil, tree wells and other landscaped areas while studying the effects of a reduction in synthetic chemical use. Methods tested could include organic treatments, higher and less frequent mowing, strategic planting or other best practices identified through research. The city will also be monitoring how these methods affect maintenance standards and resource management.
“The safety of all park and reserve users, including our employees, is always our top priority,” added Holloway. “Studying alternative methods of weed and pest management is important in understanding what works within our environment while maintaining a high level of service.”
Citizens will have many opportunities to learn more about the pilot program and provide feedback. The first public meeting will be held on February 13 to engage citizens in this effort.
PARK AND RESERVE MAINTENANCE PRACTICES
Trained department technicians and park maintenance workers use a variety of techniques and products throughout the year to prevent weed growth and combat invasive plants and harmful insects in parks and reserves, on city-controlled medians and in public rights-of-way. As an Idaho landowner, the city is required by state law to manage certain types of invasive species. Parks and Recreation team members always adhere to all state and federal regulations related to chemical use, and it’s our goal to further reduce pesticide applications whenever possible.
Since the early 1990s, Parks and Recreation has practiced an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to address pest problems on public land. IPM is a multi-tiered effort to prevent and mitigate pests including weeds, non-native plants, insects, fungus, bacteria and any other non-native organism that negatively impact plant or human health. The department’s “IPM Chemical Pesticide Management Guidelines” were first approved in 1995 and have been revised in subsequent years, most recently in 2016. Since IPM practices were first implemented in Boise, our team has continued to reduce pesticide applications on city property.
The department is hosting a public meeting on February 13 to provide more information to citizens about its current weed and pest management practices and discuss the goals of the pilot program. This introductory meeting will be held in the auditorium at the Boise Public Library (715 S. Capitol Blvd.) at 5:30 p.m. Attendees will hear a presentation from the pilot project team and have a chance to ask questions of department leaders in a conversational setting.
Following the public meeting, the project team plans to host another public meeting in March to discuss park and facility locations that meet the criteria for potential inclusion in the pilot program. Community feedback will be gathered throughout this process, including in the selection of pilot sites, and information will be updated on the city’s website so people can stay up to date on the program and data/findings throughout the multi-year study.