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Integrated Pest Management Keeps City Parks Safe
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Tuesday, September 21, 2021
 

STORY BY KATE DALY

PHOTO BY LOREN WOOD

Ever wonder about the use of pesticides in local parks?

A decade ago, the City of Ketchum became a leader in the state, passing a resolution to practice Integrated Pest Management and use alternative methods, rather than pesticides whenever possible.

Pesticides are synthetic or organic chemicals used to kill insects, weeds, fungus, bacteria, plant diseases, snails and slugs. The city’s resolution specifies use of “least toxic pesticides only as a last resort to manage pests.”

As Lisa Enourato, Ketchum’s Public Affairs and Administrative Services Manager, puts it, “We don’t use pesticides.”

Weeds might be hand-pulled in city parks, or not. Note there’s a healthy population of dandelions growing in Atkinson Park right now. But if any noxious weeds spring up, Blaine County Noxious Weed Department takes care of them using integrated pest management or herbicides aimed at getting rid of certain species.

However, Enourato says Milestone herbicide may be used to kill off weeds in Ketchum’s rights of way.

Bill Whitesell, street superintendent for the City of Sun Valley, says Sun Valley also uses Milestone on its rights of way.

“As soon as it dries, it’s safe,” he states. 

Whitesell adds that he doesn’t think pesticides are used at Festival Meadows  since the park is fertilized once a year, and mowed regularly.

Weeds are known to thrive in poor soil, and some may multiply less when they are cut back.

The City of Hailey’s Parks Division Manager Stephanie Cook says, “We are very aware of what are the best treatments and what may be harmful to beneficial insects and the environment.”

To work around people, pets and traffic, some areas are mown, while others require weeds be hand-pulled.

She says due to liability, contractors are hired if spraying is needed in the parks or rights of way. The city’s website lists about a dozen herbicides that are being used or have been used to control weeds. Noxious weeds are dealt with by the county.

Most of the tree work is contracted out to Alpine Tree Service, which promotes integrated pest management by preventing infestations in the first place. Tactics include keeping trees trimmed, deep watered and fed, and spot spraying for weeds. For the latter, warm, still, sunny days are ideal for increasing the chances of weeds absorbing herbicide.

Cook says the company recently applied organic compost tea to improve soil conditions in the rights of way, and combated aphids with insecticidal soap.

Jen Smith used to be the integrated pest management point person for the City of Ketchum before she became executive director of Sawtooth Botanical Garden. There, she said, “We try to use more natural non-toxic methods like blasting aphids with a water hose.”

She emphasizes that, if pesticides are needed, the main thing to do is to look at the label. “You don’t want to use it the wrong way.”

Do it wrong, for instance, and you could kill fish while targeting mosquitoes.

She goes on to caution, “It’s very important to hire a licensed and knowledgeable pesticide applicator, because the chemicals may affect your health down the road.”

When Smith worked for Ketchum, she relied on arborist Jeff Beacham at Arborcare Resources for his expertise in integrated pest management. In general, he prefers using systemic treatments applied to tree roots or bark over foliar spray.

Milestone, he says, works well tackling noxious weeds, but should not be used near trees because it can cause issues and damage them.


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