Park District seeks volunteers for Nov. 11 weeding effort
Updated: December 4, 2011 10:33AM
Instead of spraying turf-care chemicals on three Highland Park athletic fields, Park District officials decided last week to take residents up on their offer of organizing a community weeding effort.
The first weed-picking event will begin at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at Danny Cunniff Park, 2700 Trail Way Street.
The Park Board, and several of the residents who led an aggressive community campaign against the chemicals, have already committed to the day of manual labor, but many more volunteers will be needed to eradicate the reported 60 percent weed coverage at Cunniff, West Ridge and Larry Fink parks. Cunniff was selected first because it’s Highland Park’s largest athletic venue, with three soccer fields and two baseball diamonds.
Community groups, local sports teams and school clubs will be tapped to pull the weeds. Grass seed will be supplied and spread in the weeds’ place to help fill in the holes.
Interested volunteers are encouraged to notify the district of plans to help out by calling (847) 579-3103 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants are asked to meet at the field house near the Cunniff soccer fields on Nov. 11 so district officials can provide instructions and supplies. Participants must bring their own gloves.
Additional weed-picking events will be held later this fall and again in April to ensure all three parks are ready for the district’s spring and summer athletic programming.
“If the Parks Advisory Committee is unable to obtain a sufficient number of volunteers to effectuate the hand removal of weeds, it shall promptly advise the Park District of Highland Park Board of Commissioners and its staff of this fact so that alternative solutions to the weed overgrowth can be promptly evaluated and implemented in advance of the 2012 spring season, and thereafter as needed,” the Park Board’s unanimously approved turf management resolution states.
In August, commissioners authorized its park operations staff to apply one chemical treatment to rescue those three playing fields. The Park Board, however, officially backed off from the chemical approach Oct. 27 after a community backlash was expressed in more than 70 e-mails to district leaders, 575 signatures on an online petition and two-dozen impassioned comments during an Oct. 11 public hearing.
In addition to the weed-picking effort, commissioners also announced last week the creation a Parks Advisory Committee, which will assemble between seven and 11 residents interested in turf management. The recommending body will ultimately advise the Park Board on a long-term solution for the deteriorating athletic fields.
“There was a consensus among all of our experts as well as the community that a manual weed eradication strategy would be effective and safe,” said Park Board president Scott Meyers. “Apparently elbow grease is not on the list of EPA-banned substances.”
Highland Park residents Michelle Kramer, Kim Stone and Dean Mouscher, who led the move against spraying, publicly thanked the Park Board for keeping with its three-year commitment of treating local fields with natural techniques.
“I and many other people appreciate you listening to what the community said and listening to our concerns and holding the meeting, and seeking consultants to advise you on the issue,” Kramer told the Park Board last week. “I definitely will be there to help weed and will do my part to bring others to help also.”
In addressing long-term turf issues, the new Parks Advisory Committee will be asked to conduct a complete analysis of the district’s current Integrated Pest Management program and policies.
“(This Board is) one of transparency, we are open-minded, we are here to serve our residents, and (I hope) there will be a trust built that when the time comes when we do have to make a (long-term) decision that you will know that we do have your best interest in mind,” commissioner Lori Flores Weisskopf said.
The district adopted a progressive, model lawn care program in 2007 that includes aggressive irrigation, aeration, mowing, over-seeding and other cultural practices to keep the turf in good condition. The district also has tried applying corn gluten meal and restaurant-grade vinegar, which are billed as natural substitutes for synthetic herbicides.