Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Pesticide-Free Sports Fields are Working for Connecticut’s Youth

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There is no debate among the scientific community; pesticides pose an unacceptable and disproportionate risk to children’s health.

That’s why it made sense for the State of Connecticut to prohibit lawn care pesticides from being used on school playing fields in 2005, to protect Connecticut’s smallest children where they learn and play.  Since then, awareness around this important children’s health issue has grown, and so has the demand to provide our kids with safe, non-toxic learning environments.  In fact, Connecticut’s landmark pesticide ban has actually become a model for other states (New York prohibited pesticides on K-12 playing fields in 2010), and many towns and municipalities have started applying the same natural lawn-care principles to public parks and town greens.

Cheshire, CT is one of those towns.  In 2007, parents began expressing concerns over what kinds of chemicals were being used on Cheshire’s public playing fields.  Soon afterwards, community members began appealing to the Cheshire Department of Parks and Recreation to develop a non-toxic turf care regiment for all the town fields.  Recognizing the growing demand for a healthy, toxic free community, the parks and rec department agreed and the transition towards child-safe playing fields began.

A recent trip to the Cheshire Dept. of Parks and Rec revealed what environmental advocates have been saying all along; not only can town playing fields be effectively maintained without the use of toxic pesticides, but natural fields can actually be quite attractive to the eye.  Children’s health advocates observing the site that day were impressed to find lush, green playing fields, carefully manicured without the use of harmful chemicals.  Well organized parks and rec staff were highly trained and adept at natural lawn-care techniques that emphasized good soil chemistry, proper nutrition, and regular maintenance. The results were obvious: healthy, playable grass fields that are pleasing to the eye and safe for kids to play on!

So what’s Cheshire’s key to success?  According to Bob Ceccolini, Cheshire’s Director of Parks and Recreation, the will to succeed plays a significant role.  “The grounds crew has to be on board,” said Ceccolini.  “If the guys working for me don’t think it’s going to work, it’s not going to happen.  They have a lot of experience and strong opinions of how to do things- if you don’t get the staff to buy into the program, you’re not going to see the results.”

Another factor in the success of Cheshire’s natural turf program lies in partnerships.  According to Ceccolini, close collaboration between the town’s parks and rec staff and the maintenance staff of Cheshire’s public school district was essential in ensuring consistent, quality care of playing fields, especially during school sports games taking place on town fields.  Youth sports and parent groups were also instrumental, including Cheshire soccer, who contributed a substantial portion of the funds to help the town make the transition to organics.

It is clear that natural lawn-care can work and does work with the right attitude and attention to detail.  To achieve healthy, pesticide free green spaces and playing fields, Connecticut towns need community partnerships, proper training, and a commitment to children’s health to do the job right.  A revolving loan fund or some other funding mechanism at the state level could go a long way in helping towns get the training and the materials they need to make the switch, but ultimately, the will to succeed is what will determine which towns will excel and which ones will lagcheshire3 behind.

 

cheshire12

 

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