Activists ask Menlo Park to weed out herbicides


Weeds, there's no getting away from them. But Menlo Park does its best to kill weeds by dousing the plants with herbicide, an approach some call unnecessary.

The city began planning its annual summer spraying in June. Bay Area resident Nancy Arbuckle, who participates in a national effort to restore bluebird populations to urban areas, asked Menlo Park to reconsider.

In an email to city officials on June 21, Ms. Arbuckle wrote that nesting boxes in city parks are now brimming with blue eggs and hatchlings. While weeds don't detract from park enjoyment, spraying does by endangering the wildlife. She also said that children and pets share the risk of exposure.

Assistant Director of Public Works Ruben Nino responded by saying the city takes pesticide safety seriously, posts signs to warn visitors not to enter the parks for 12 hours post-application, and waits until weather conditions discourage spray drift. According to Mr. Nino, the herbicide used, turflon ester, ranks in the next-to-last category of toxicity.

Ms. Arbuckle said the signs are easy to overlook. "The notion of 'weeds' is an outdated one," she told Mr. Nino. "Parks are for playing, picnicking, and enhanced quality of life, all of which are undermined by herbicide use."

Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith is researching policies in other cities. "I would appreciate hearing both positive and negative information from other cities that have tried using alternatives, or have stopped using toxic products altogether," she said. "If there is a non-toxic way to control weeds that is cost effective, I think it would benefit the residents of Menlo Park to use non-toxic products on our public spaces."

The parks superintendent for San Rafael, Vern Doughty, said his city adopted a policy limiting herbicide use whenever possible, but still sprays as needed. He told Ms. Keith that reduced staffing, coupled with the ineffectiveness of alternative herbicides like clove oil, which also cost more, make traditional herbicides one of the city's most effective tools.

Former mayor Steve Schmidt hopes Menlo Park looks at mowing as an efficient alternative to broadcast herbicide spraying.

"What I hear from city staff is that spraying saves a lot of money," he said. "I don't think they actually think it through. A case in point is Sand Hill Road. They sprayed it, but it still looks terrible and they're going to have to mow it anyway."

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Like this comment
Posted by Carol
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hired goats filling their tummies is an excellent eco-friendly method of getting rid of any unwanted weeds.

Like this comment
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 30, 2011 at 6:30 pm

It takes effort to keep landscaping nice - and weeds do not make it look better (thats one reason why they call them weeds). Goats are not selective, they will eat anything that is not 20 gage or heavier steel, and roam at will. As for mowing, it releases the seeds that weeds are best at spreading (thats the other reason why they call them weeds).

I use RoundUp because it is supposedly non-toxic to animals or anything that doesn't do photosynthesis - I have more bird species than I can count, and bugs and worms too. But a better idea as any landscape architect knows is to use 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch, which suppresses seed germination until it decays, about three years. It also retains moisture in the soil, saving irrigation water. It's odd that the city does not spread bark mulch, especially considering how much chipping is done by city contractors.

Like this comment
Posted by David strohm
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Mr Riggs makes 2 comments of interest. One regards landscaping looking "nice". The second, that Round Up is "supposedly non-toxic,"

I get "nice". The question is if we want to risk human cell deterioration to get nice landscaping. Google Round up. If you choose research NOT provided by manufacturer, Monsanto, you will discover scientists have discovered serious dangers covered up by Monsanto. In 2011 I would assume folks would learn to be skeptical of manufacturer claims. Their top priority is not safety -- it's revenue. Ask Chinese toothpaste manufacturers. Personally, I don't choose toothpaste made with anti-freeze to save a few bucks. And I dont expect one of the richest communities in the nation to make a similar choice with maintaining their turf. David Strohm

Like this comment
Posted by An Activist
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Roundup is not a safe product

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Roxie
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 6, 2011 at 1:06 am

Thank you to Ms Arbuckle for fighting against herbicide use. What are these weeds that are so bad? When I was a child we pulled weeds out of our lawn, it worked. If there are people using the park that want the lawn to be perfect, perhaps they should start a volunteer movement to pull the weeds -- polluting the environment should not be an option.

I also appreciate Vice Mayor's Keith's decision to research what other cities do and see if Menlo Park can adopt policies to control weeds without putting toxins in the environment. I think this new council member is proactive and looking for solutions.

Thank you again for looking after the planet.

Like this comment
Posted by JohnWoodell
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2011 at 6:12 am

JohnWoodell is a registered user.

Henry, here is a related suggestion from "Create a garden the Kirsten way" Web Link

USE BOILING WATER AS A WEED-KILLER: Instead of using commercial weed-killers on paved areas, try boiling salt water. Pour this on to the weeds and they will shrivel and die.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Donham
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

We are fighting the U.S. Forest Service on the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois who wants to spray 10s of thousands of acres of so-called "exotic" species with toxic herbicides. If the direct toxicity of these chemicals isn't bad enough, check out the statement of the Endocrine Society about the endocrine disrupting capabilities of these chemicals. Web Link

The idea that these chemicals are safe is a scam, and nothing more than industry propoganda. Keep up your opposition and if enough people speak up we can stop this craziness.

Like this comment
Posted by HHH
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 12, 2011 at 6:32 am

[Post removed. Not related to the topic.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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