Every public parks department faces the same challenge: how to effectively maintain and care for public open spaces in an environmentally responsible way with a reasonable amount of taxpayer dollars. Although this is often a challenge that’s difficult to meet, the Community Services and Parks Department in the City of Glendale, Calif., is making significant strides in this direction.
The Glendale Parks Department has changed its planting strategy, established an integrated pest management system, switched to a natural weedkiller, and worked with local utilities to conserve water usage. These efforts are designed to protect the local community’s health as well as illustrate good stewardship of the world’s resources.
A New Planting Strategy
Most people are aware of the fact that many areas in the state of California have struggled with drought in recent years, and it’s common knowledge that grass is one of the biggest consumers of that precious resource.
“One thing we did was to take about 5 percent to 10 percent of turf out of production in the parks system,” said Dennis Gaudenti, park maintenance supervisor. “We replaced those areas with heavily mulched, drought-tolerant plants instead. That allowed us to begin saving water by shutting off or significantly reducing our irrigation in those areas.”
In addition, the City of Glendale has also converted four of its soccer fields and one or two baseball fields in its 46 public parks to artificial turf with the same conservation goal in mind.
Integrated Pest Management Program
The second step in Glendale’s sustainability program involved creating an integrated pest management handbook. Currently, the city works with three pest management contractors who have agreed to adhere to the park department’s sustainability requirements.
“We have committed to using pesticides as only a last resort, and we do not use products with a ‘warning’ label, only a ‘caution’ label,” Gaudenti explained. We use three contractors: one for bees, one for general pests, and one for rodent control. All three have agreed to our program. One of our partners, for example, uses only trap and release to deal with rodents such as gophers, rats, and ground squirrels.
A Safe, Effective, Affordable Herbicide
As part of its integrated program, the City of Glendale has also banned the use of toxic herbicides. “That decision was based on all the media coverage surrounding weed killers that are made with glyphosate and the pending lawsuits,” Gaudenti explained. “When that ban began, we switched to a citric acid-based herbicide. However, it was very expensive, had a high dilituation rate, and generated only mediocre results.”
The parks department learned about EcoMight, a naturally organic, systemic herbicide, through the city of Burbank, Calif. “We decided to test it and got very good results,” Gaudenti said. “We’ve been using it on nutsedge and Bermuda grass, which are often very difficult weeds to manage. Although some of the tougher weeds come back, they do so very slowly, and it’s easy to hit them again. We’re very impressed with it so far.”
Glendale is using EcoMight in undeveloped properties owned by the city, right-of-ways, and public park planters.
The City of Glendale is working with local utility companies to better manage water usage and improve conservation efforts.
“Our utility does offer centrally controlled systems that help with monitoring of water usage,” Gaudenti said. For example, a master valve will automatically shut off water if there is a sudden increase in usage that could indicate a water line break. We are also notified when something like that happens. Temperature, rainfall, and water usage is monitored as well.”
In addition, the city of Glendale takes advantage of a great deal of reclaimed water for irrigation, which is collected in a separate piping system and provided by the utility company.
Although the local community is generally supportive of sustainability efforts such as the ones that the Parks Department has undertaken, there’s always a concern about rising taxes as well. The City of Glendale provides an inspiring example of how to balance sustainability efforts with economic priorities successfully.
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