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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Parks experiments with ways to reduce use of synthetic herbicides

Dandelions grow near the infield dirt at the Chief Garry Park baseball fields on Tuesday in Spokane.  (Dan Pelle/THESPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane Parks and Recreation is going au naturale this summer.

The parks department will test natural and organic turf treatments at Chief Garry Park in an effort to reduce reliance on synthetic herbicides and pesticides, so you might be seeing more dandelions there than usual.

If successful, natural turf management could spread to other parks and public property across the city of Spokane.

“We’d really like to become a model for what can be done for a natural solution instead of just throwing man-made pesticides at it,” Al Vorderbrueggen, operations director for Spokane Parks and Recreation, told the City Council’s Urban Experience Committee .

The first focus will be on two sections of Chief Garry Park, a green oasis in the neighborhood with which it shares a name along the busy corridor of Mission Avenue. The first section is at the popular youth baseball fields, while the other is near a splash pad.

Spokane Parks isn’t just taking a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Employees will regularly conduct soil testing and monitor the health of the soil, hopefully learning lessons along the way.

“Instead of having the product determine how we’re going to treat things, we’re going to have the ecosystem of that particular land mass, or in this case these ballfields or the turf near the splash pad, that’s going to tell us what we need to do,” Vorderbrueggen said.

The goal, he said, is to “see how close we can get to a natural solution.”

Parks officials are aiming for turf that is more resilient and more supportive of soil biology and microbial life.

Spokane Parks has worked with staff from the nonprofit Beyond Pesticides, which advocates reduced reliance on pesticides on lawns and landscapes, and warns of their adverse impacts on the health of people and the environment.

The natural turf management pilot fits alongside other ongoing Spokane Parks programs, including its efforts to reduce water usage and make parks hospitable for pollinators.

“It’s a nice way to kind of bring it together and move us forward,” said Park Operations Assistant Director Carl Strong.