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Branford, CT Finds Success with Organic Playing Fields

(Beyond Pesticides, January 12, 2009) Propelled by state legislation prohibiting pesticides use on school grounds that has yet to go into effect, Branford, Connecticut is a model for others around the country in managing town playing fields, parks and public lawns without using pesticides. The town’s Parks and Recreation Department’s remarkable success in implementing an organic land management approach has resulted in healthier turf and lower maintenance costs. Later this month the town is expected to pass a resolution to ensure their commitment to the organic turf program.

Alex Palluzzi, Jr., director of the Branford Parks and Recreation Department, says he once was “on the other side” but now is motivated by the results he sees with organic and wants to get others to do the same. The town’s organic program took off when a two-acre park was donated to the town and Mr. Palluzzi and his team began a pilot project converting the field to organic. Its success proved to Mr. Palluzzi that organic land management works. Now, all twenty-four of the town’s fields are maintained with organic practices.

“We have not used pesticides in years,” says Mr. Palluzzi. Instead, the town relies on properly aerating the soil, overseeding, mowing the turf high, adding compost and testing the soil. One reason the organic program is so cost effective is because the town collects residents’ leaves for its compost and mulch.

Chuck Sherwood, field maintenance subcontractor for the Parks and Recreation Department, states in an article in The Sound, “When you put down this organic matter, we simply [find] you don’t need pesticides and these other fertilizers. With synthetics you are creating an artificial environment and when you lay down pesticides you are knocking out beneficial organisms too… Organics has become the better value.” Organic turf management results in healthier soils, which produce thicker turf, disease resistance, less soil compaction and a softer playing field. Mr. Sherwood goes on to say that, “You have much healthier root systems that can sustain the repeated us.”

Last spring, the town of Greenwich, Connecticut also passed a policy banning the use of pesticides on all of its athletic fields. Throughout the country there has been a growth in the pesticide-free movement. The passage of pesticide-free public land policies are very promising. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, see Beyond Pesticides Lawns & Landscapes program page. To find a service provider that practices least- or non-toxic methods, visit the Safety Source for Pest Management.


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