LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) awarded $20,000 to the Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management to implement organic land care practices on six properties.
The properties include the Frederick Harris School grounds, Sweeny Playing Field at High School of Commerce, Forest Park Playing Field, Tree Top Park, Camp Wilder and the terrace at Mason Square. The results from these pilot sites will provide the foundation to expand the program to 50 school properties and 900 acres of public land.
Mayor Domenic Sarno says: “The City of Springfield is proud to accept the $20,000 grant from TURI, which will start the vital process of integrating organic fertilizers in the maintenance practices of our open space across the City. It is time we take the lead in the Pioneer Valley by encouraging both residents and business to join us in the protection of our open space and water resources by using organic fertilizers. I am convinced this will have long-term impacts and improve the overall health of our urban environment.”
The project team will conduct soil analyses, implement management plans for pilot sites, develop bid specifications for materials and labor, create a program budget to implement organic land care practices and conduct training for staff, community groups and municipal partners in Northampton and Holyoke.
Patrick J Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management says: “The Department of Parks and Buildings is pleased to be partnering with TURI in our organic land care pilot program. Using an organic approach is not a one-for-one replacement of chemicals but rather it is a systems approach to building soil fertility to prevent disease, insect and weed infestations. Organic land care is about maintaining healthy soil biology, using proper fertilization levels for optimum plant health, using preventative strategies and products to control turf weeds and choosing the right grass.”
The City has moved away from using synthetic fertilizers that can leach into groundwater, streams, rivers and lakes and cause negative health effects in children and pets. In the long term, synthetic fertilizers damage the natural makeup of soil by killing beneficial organisms.
The City’s parks include bare spots on fields that pose unsafe playing surfaces and encroachment of poison ivy and other weeds that pose life-threatening bee allergic reactions. Rather than choosing to use additional chemicals to battle these issues, the City will move to organic practices and become a model for other cities, municipalities and residents.
“The green industry now offers organic products that are affordable and will have a long- term impact in improving the overall health of our turf eco systems,” says Sullivan. “We will also be saving money in the long run.”
“We’re excited that the City of Springfield will use organic land care methods on land where children play to prove over time that you can have healthy, beautiful parks and school grounds without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers,” says Joy Onasch, TURI’s Community and Small Business Program Manager.