Pes­ti­cide ban at Arun­del play­grounds

Bill would re­strict usage at county-owned playsites

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Amanda Yea­ger

A bright yel­low sign caught Gina Web­bert Pendry’s eye last month as she watched her kids play at Quiet Waters Park.

What she read on the sign con­cerned her. In an ef­fort to con­trol weeds, the Anne Arun­del County Depart­ment of Re­cre­ation and Parks would soon be spray­ing the play­ground with pes­ti­cides.

“I was sur­prised they were go­ing to spray here,” Web­bert Pendry said. “It’s a chem­i­cal. Kids put their hands in their mouths; the older kids run through the [sprayed] area and then [the pes­ti­cide] is on their clothes or their hands.”

She reached out to County Coun­cil­man Chris Trum­bauer, a Demo­crat rep­re­sent­ing An­napo­lis, who this month in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that seeks to ban pes­ti­cide spray­ing on play­grounds in the county.

Bill 76-16 in­stead would re­quire al­ter­na­tive meth­ods for killing weeds and pests on play­grounds, such as weed­ing by hand.

“I’d rather tol­er­ate a cou­ple weeds on a play­ground than have to deal with toxic pes­ti­cides there,” Trum­bauer said.

The bill con­tains an emer­gency pro­vi­sion — so, he said, “if there’s a hor­net’s nest or some sort of gi­ant Venus fly­trap that could eat chil­dren, they could use pes­ti­cides” to han­dle the prob­lem.

But a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the re­cre­ation Gina Penry of An­napo­lis shows a photo of a pes­ti­cide spray­ing no­tice on her phone while Terri Rafiq, and her son Reed, 11 months, sit on a bench in the back­ground at the play­ground at Quiet Waters Park on Fri­day. and parks depart­ment said Trum­bauer’s pro­posal would make it more dif­fi­cult to care for county play­grounds.

Chris Car­roll, chief of op­er­a­tions for the north­ern county parks, said depart­ment staff al­ready strug­gle to keep up with a 21-day mow­ing cy­cle for county land. They also have to main­tain more than 50 play­grounds.

Spray­ing weeds is more ef­fec­tive than re­mov­ing them by hand, he said, be­cause the process takes less time and keeps weeds away for longer.

“It comes down to be­ing able to get the job done,” he said.

Car­roll said any pes­ti­cide spray­ing on play­grounds is tar­geted and used as a “last re­sort.” The coun­cil passed an in­te­grated pest man­age­ment plan in 2013, which in­structs county of­fi­cials to use pes­ti­cides only af­ter ex­haust­ing non-toxic op­tions. Pes­ti­cides can only be ap­plied at cer­tain times, dur­ing cer­tain weather con­di­tions and only af­ter post­ing no­tice.

The play­ground at Quiet Waters Park had not been sprayed since 2014. Terri Rafiq, who of­ten brings her three chil­dren to Quiet Waters Park, said she would ac­cept see­ing weeds on the play­ground if that meant there were no pes­ti­cides.

“I’d much rather have a safe place than a per­fect-look­ing place,” she said.

Sev­eral par­ents have of­fered to pull weeds at Quiet Waters.

De­spite Trum­bauer’s in­ten­tion to tar­get play­grounds, some worry the bill could have a fur­ther reach.

Ac­cord­ing to Owen McEvoy, a spokesman for County Ex­ec­u­tive Steve Schuh, the county’s Of­fice of Law has said the bill’s def­i­ni­tion of play­grounds could be in­ter­preted to in­clude sports fields.

McEvoy said the Schuh ad­min­is­tra­tion op­poses the bill, which he called “overly broad and very ex­pen­sive to im­ple­ment.”

Robin Herzberger, a Pasadena mother of four, said spray­ing at sports fields was the only thing that kept chig­gers — small mites that bur­row un­der the skin and cause ex­treme itch­ing — out of the grass at Loop­ers Field and the Woods Road com­plex, where her chil­dren play sports.

“If they don’t spray, it’s a night­mare,” she said.

In the four years since she’s been tak­ing her kids to games on both fields, “we’ve never had an is­sue with any­body get­ting sick from what they’re spray­ing,” Herzberger said, “but we’ve had plenty of peo­ple get chig­gers.”

Trum­bauer said he is work­ing on an amend­ment to his bill that will clar­ify that the pes­ti­cide ban would only ap­ply to play­grounds.

Con­cerns about spray­ing on fields “have noth­ing at all to do with this” leg­is­la­tion, he said.

The County Coun­cil will hold a pub­lic hear­ing on Trum­bauer’s bill at its next meet­ing on Nov. 7.

MATTHEW COLE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

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