BY JIM AUSTIN
THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
The board of trustees adopted a policy Tuesday night that would halt the use of chemical pesticides on village-owned and maintained property as soon as possible. The debate over the use of turf management chemicals, particularly on the village’s iconic Doubleday Field has been gaining momentum since April when Sam and Hilda Wilcox spearheaded the screening of a film about their use and one Canadian community’s effort to ban them.
Sam Wilcox again spoke out against their use at the beginning of Tuesday’s board meeting as he had at the Doubleday Field and Environmental Concerns committees.
Wilcox cited the example set by the state Legislature that prohibited the use of turf managment chemical on school playing fields.
“Our own Clark gym has stopped using pesticides on its grass,” he said. In what he said was the growing body of evidence that those chemicals pose a health threat, he urged board membersto follow the example set by the state and think in terms of the precautionary principle.
Wilcox was not alone. Former mayor Wendell Tripp opposed the use of the chemicals. “What’s the harm of not using this stuff,” he asked.
Russ Honiker expressed concerns about the use of the herbicide Roundup under the first base bleachers at Doubleday Field near where Willow Brook flows to Otsego Lake.
Honniker said he understands the village is working on transitioning away from the use of the chemicals, but urged the board to act.
“We could be bold,” he said. “We have everything to gain if we stop it.” Nicole Dillingham, of Springfield Center, president of the Otsego 2000 board of directors, urged the board to stop the use of the herbicides on the field. The problem with pesticides and herbicides is there is often no direct correlation between health problems and the chemicals or it takes years for them to manifest themselves, she said.
“Our children are being exposed to more and more chemicals,” Dillingham said. “We can take a stand to protect the children of Cooperstown.”
Adrian Kuzminski, the moderator of Sustainable Otsego, reminded the board that Cooperstown sits at the headwatersof the Susquehanna River and has “a special responsibility.” Joe Potrikus, of Greener World Landscape Maintenance, said the chemicals used on the field should be seen as turf management tools that do not pose the kind of threat many people believe they do.
Potrikus said Doubleday Field groundskeeper Joe Harris should not be villified, but commended for the job he has done maintaining the field.
Harris, he said, has done an excellent job and is wellrespected in the industry. Potrikus said Roundup was created in the 1960s for use in no-till corn and has grown in popularity. It does not move in the soil and it is not persistent in the soil.
He told the board that Doubleday Field is a revenue source for the village and needs to be maintainedas a good playable surface. He described the amount of matieral used on the field as “neglible.”
Ron Bishop, who teaches chemistry and biochemistry at the State University College at Oneonta, said pesticides have long been used and it was not until later that the impact of their use became better understood. Bishop suggested the board consider not a total ban on their use, but not business as usual. The chemicals, he said, should be applied to address risks and not nuisances. The village, he said, should look toward biological or mechanical controls, such as pulling the weeds.
James Herman said he urged the board to look at the accumulated toxins overall and what affect that may have on the village.
In his report to the board, Doubleday Field committee chairman Frank Capozza said nothing is sprayed on the grass on Doubleday Field. Joe Harris uproots any dandilions he finds in the grass.
According to Capozza, the village has been awarded an almost $8,000 New York state integrated pest management grant to study how to best maintain the field and move toward a pesticide- free environment. “We’re delighted to have that one-year grant,” he said. Mayor Jeff Katz moved the report from Jim Dean, chairman of the Environmental Concerns committee up the agenda to follow the Doubleday Field report.
Dean said he was bringing to the board a recommendation from his committee that calls for a halt in the use of chemical pesticides as soon as possible. He said the committee realizes there is already an effort to transition away from the use of the chemcials at the field. The recommendation leaves the door open to the use of organic herbicides. “What if it turns out that you just need to use one application somewhere for playability and the look and you just need one application on the warning track?” he asked.
“This is about weeds,” Dean said, “with that kind of thinking this will go on forever.”
Capozza said an organic alternative Harris is testing this season works well and kills the tops of the plants, but does not necessarily kill the roots. He said he had a concern about breaking the law, if the ban is passed and Harris encounters a problem at the field.
Katz said the board was not considering a law, but a policy.
“My hope is that by the end of the season we’ll not be using Roundup anymore,” Katz said.
The board adopted the policy unanimously. “I very pleased the village accepted and acted favorably on the recommendation from the environmental committee,” Sam Wilcox said following the vote.
BY JIM AUSTIN
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