The Boise Parks and Recreation Department manages more than 1,600 acres of park land and more than 5,000 acres of open space across the City of Boise. To promote environmental health and stay on the cutting edge of public land management, the department embarked on a three-year Pesticide Reduction Pilot Program in 2020 to study alternative land management techniques to reduce the use of pesticides on city-owned property. The program has now expanded to most city parks and is in the final year of the program’s pilot phase.
Reducing the use of pesticides throughout the city’s park system is part of a larger sustainability goal, and the program advances innovative ways to improve park maintenance strategies. The program also supports other City of Boise initiatives, like America the Beautiful, by promoting pollinators and science-based land management actions to build resilient and healthy ecosystems.
“Two years ago, we identified 17 sites for the first phase of the Pesticide Reduction Pilot Program. Today, more than 60 parks in our system are active pesticide reduction sites,” said Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway. “We are now seeing the direct benefits to our resource management, pollinator habitat, groundwater quality control and overall health of the grass, plants and trees throughout city parks.”
The goal of the three-year pilot program is to 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. These efforts are now coming to fruition in parks throughout Boise and folks may notice changes when visiting their neighborhood park.
Grass areas could have more dandelions, clover, and other broadleaf plants. These plants are nontoxic and park visitors can enjoy these areas as normal. Broadleaf plants are beneficial to the local ecosystem by providing food and habitat to native pollinators and adding to the biodiversity of our green spaces. Untrimmed grass may be longer; cosmetic uses of glyphosate-based herbicides (spraying of tree wells) has been curtailed at park sites. Untrimmed areas and tree wells can have other plants fill in. Increasing the mowing height for turf at program park sites improves the overall health of the grass and requires less maintenance resources, like mowing frequency and water.
“Through our study of alternative weed and pest management, we are seeing success in reducing the use of pesticides and look forward to understanding the outcomes from the final phase of the pilot program this summer,” added Holloway. “We are committed to maintaining a high level of service, and the health and safety of all park users is always our top priority. It is our hope that park users recognize our intentional maintenance shifts while enjoying these outdoor spaces with confidence.”
Boise Parks and Recreation will continue to evaluate maintenance techniques and improve practices this summer to combat invasive plants and harmful insects in parks and reserves, while engaging residents on the benefits of pesticide reduction. Starting this fall, the project team will use pilot program data and community feedback to potentially implement policy changes that would take effect next year (2023).
For more information on the City of Boise’s pesticide reduction efforts and to provide feedback on the program, visit our website.