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Springfield's Transition of Public Land Management to Organic Land Care

Project Details

Year: 2015
Location: Springfield
Project Manager: Lynn Rose, Project Coordinator, Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management
Partners: City of Northhampton, City of Holyoke, Springfield Organic Land Care Task Force

Overview

In 2014, the Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management made a commitment to begin organic management of its natural grass fields and parks. Springfield received support through a TURI grant to design and implement organic land care and grass turf management practices on municipal and school properties. Springfield's motivation for transitioning to an organic turf management system was to protect the surrounding watershed and provide healthy playing spaces for community members.

The project team worked with a consultant specialized in organic grass management to create a “Systems Approach to Natural Turf Management” focused on creating healthy, resilient soil and grass that can naturally outcompete pests, and prevent turf issues such as puddling and bare spots. The city worked with Chip Osborne, of Osborne Organic through a series of four site visits, phone calls, and emails to develop and implement an organic maintenance plan for six pilot properties. These pilot sites including athletic fields, parks, and other public use areas.

This maintenance plans included fundamental organic management techniques including:

  • Testing soil on each property to understand and correct unique imbalances in soil chemistry, biomass, and organic content
  • Use of specific amounts organic fertilizers and soil amendments according to soil testing results
  • Aeration to decompact the soil
  • Frequent mowing during peak grass-growing month

Mr. Osborne encouraged the city to monitor these pilots for two years to better understand how best to expand the program in phases to 50 school properties and related playing fields, 2,400 acres of park land, and city terraces. Mr. Osborne also led a two-day training program for project staff and partners to understand the fundamentals of organic grass management. A Contract Specification was also drafted to obtain bids for organic products and land management services. 

Results

Springfield’s organic management of natural turf on city properties has eliminated the need for pesticides, while providing a practical surfaces that fully meets the needs of athletes and others who use the parks and city properties. The city has also found that the organically managed properties have higher quality grass and soil than those outside of the program. The organically managed athletic fields meet the community's needs for athletic recreational activities, never shut down during open hours, and game cancellations are rare. Their organic program has grown to include 12 properties, or over 67 acres of organically managed grass properties throughout the city, as of 2019. 

Read our case study on Springfield's organically managed natural grass program to learn more about maintenance techniques, annual costs, and use hours on athletic fields throughout the city. 

Awards

Springfield Parks Director Patrick Sullivan receives lifetime achievement award from U.S. EPA for his dedication to the support and preservation of the environment- November 2020



This page updated Tuesday February 02 2021
More Info
Springfield_casestudy_cover

TURI's case study on Springfield's organic management of natural grass.

The organically managed fields
are definitely in better
condition than they were before
organic management.
- Patrick Sullivan, Director, Springfield Parks Department
Video of Results