Open space district official asks Caltrans to cut back herbicide spraying


Midpeninsula Regional Open Space general manager Stephen Abbors has sent a letter to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) asking the state agency to consider maintaining at least some of its San Mateo County roadsides without broadcast spraying herbicides.

The letter, dated April 15, asks Caltrans to shift its roadside vegetation management practices "to be more in line with the (open space district's) practices" in its preserves. There, the letter says, the land near trails is kept clear of brush and weeds "solely with mechanical mowing, with spot application of herbicides only for invasive vegetation control or cut stump treatment of woody vegetation."

In recent months local residents have protested Caltrans' continued use of broadcast herbicide spraying to control vegetation alongside state-maintained roadsides in the county. Caltrans sprayed herbicides along state Highway 84 (Woodside/La Honda Road) on March 17 and state Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard) in January, prompting the protests.

Citing environmental and health concerns, San Mateo County in 2012 stopped broadcast spraying herbicides on county-maintained roads. At the time, Caltrans said it might do the same, but it has not done so.

Other local organizations that have recently asked Caltrans to stop the broadcast herbicide spraying include the Committee for Green Foothills and the South Skyline Association. More than 300 people have signed a petition asking for the same thing at

Patty Mayall, who lives near La Honda and has fought herbicide spraying for years, says Caltrans official recently indicated they will consider forming a special committee, including residents, to look at how Caltrans manages the vegetation along its county roadsides. Right now, only one of the 12 districts Caltrans is divided into has a District Roadside Vegetation Management Alternatives Committee.

"It is meaningful that they are considering it, as this will be the opportunity to have the public's direct input on roadside vegetation management decisions," Ms. Mayall said.

The letter from Mr. Abbors says he understands the difficulty of trying to control vegetation without using herbicides.

"I do not make this request lightly; I understand the enormous task it is to maintain facilities and would not make this request if it I did not believe it was doable and the very best stewardship for the environment," Mr. Abbors writes.

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6 people like this
Posted by oakleaf
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

oakleaf is a registered user.

Kudos to Mid Peninsula Open Space for putting their support behind this very important issue. I know it takes many meetings and much discussion for such a large organization to make a stand, and I greatly appreciate the effort they put forth.

More and more local organizations and farmers are chiming in with their objections to the repeated and unnecessary spraying of toxic chemicals near homes and open spaces. Those of us with wells and gardens near the areas sprayed will be especially relieved when it stops. Milestone (one of the herbicides Caltrans admits to spraying) has a half life in water of 990 days! And a half life in soil of over 500 days. It is just too risky to expose the people and wildlife who live here. It is also risky to expose hikers, bikers and equestrians who have no idea they are passing through areas that should not be entered without protective gear for 12 hours.

I continue to hope that Caltrans will go back to mowing for vegetation management. We don't need more toxic chemicals in our environment. Cancer rates are high enough.

Thank you to Barbara Wood for covering the important local issues.

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