Tucson first in state to adopt organics instead of herbicides

Toxin free parks coming to Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson could soon adopt a new pilot project for what is known as an Integrated Pest Management Policy.

Sounds a bit dry, but what it means the city will use organics first in its parks, on medians or other places where it needs to control weeds.

“We have to get ourselves off this whole notion that the only way you can control weeds is with chemical pesticides,” said Ward 6 city council member Steve Kozachik.

The process started two years ago when a group from the Landscape Advisory Committee asked Kozachik if he would help ban certain herbicides, which were thought to be harming the bee population.

Instead, he asked staff to find a program which could be an alternative to a ban.

“People are concerned about what we’re putting on the ground for their kids to play on and their pets to run around in,” he said.

The new policy, which is patterned on the policy adopted by Irvine, California in 2016, will be phased in a park at a time and the cost will be assessed after a year.

At least 150 cities have passed organics-first policies, but Tucson will be the first in the state of Arizona.

GeeGee Larrington of Toxic Free Pima County said cities which adopted the policy have seen their “soils restored and the water savings has been 30 to 80 percent.”

Since Tucson has 148 parks, the water savings alone could be substantial.

Another advantage could be uniformity.

Right now, most departments which do weed, soil and grass management, have different policies and use the pesticides or herbicides of their choice. The new policy will put everyone on the same page.

“We’re going to have one overarching policy that says use organics first, chemicals last and only in the case of an emergency," Kozachik said.

The policy should come back to the full council for review and passage within the next 90 days.

The decision to ask staff to form an Integrated Pest Management plan passed unanimously, giving some confidence it will become policy.

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