By MARY IMGRUND — The City of Hyattsville has been working to make its practices more sustainable for years. City staff have introduced electric vehicles, worked to reduce energy use, and planted rain gardens and native plants. They use environmentally preferable products, when available. And now, city staff will add organic grounds management for the city’s most popular park.
Hyattsville’s Magruder Park has been chosen as one of the first 10 parks in Stonyfield Organic’s StonyFIELDs #PlayFree program, and will be converted to organic grounds management with support from the yogurt brand. Through the initiative, Stonyfield will provide the City of Hyattsville $5,000 toward the purchase of organic inputs and equipment as well as support from expert resources in organic groundskeeping.
“The city is thrilled to have been selected by Stonyfield to advance our efforts to be a green community,” said Jake Rollow, Hyattsville’s public information officer. “Managing our fields with all organics will benefit the fields themselves, all the people and animals who use them, and the surrounding habitat.”
Magruder Park was chosen in part because Hyattsville released a 2016 ordinance outlining its policy against pesticides in an effort to move the city towards sustainable practices and because Beyond Pesticides, Stonyfield’s collaborator, has already been working with city officials. While Magruder isn’t currently treated with pesticides, Stonyfield hopes that by choosing it, they can show that a municipality’s flagship park can be successfully managed with organic practices.
“When we thought about the first 10 communities that would be a good fit to team up with for the StonyFIELDs program, we wanted to work with locations that already had momentum around removing harmful pesticides from community spaces,” said Kristina Drociak, head of PR for Stonyfield Organic.
The initiative is in response to concerns over glyphosate, one of the primary ingredients in the popular herbicide Roundup, which has been linked to cancer. Roundup is produced by the controversial agricultural giant, Monsanto, and has been on the market since 1974. It’s estimated that approximately 270 million pounds are applied annually to crops, fields, and personal lawns. Organic Grounds management would eliminate the use of such herbicides, pesticides and fungicides that could be potentially dangerous for families and children enjoying public parks.
Glyphosate defenders claim that reports of its carcinogenic properties are overstated or inaccurate. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an independent yet integral part of the World Health Organization (WHO), published findings that linked glyphosate to cancer in humans. They labeled it as a probable carcinogen based on animal evidence which was deemed sufficient to make this assertion. In 2016 the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues concluded that it is not carcinogenic in rats but couldn’t rule out the possibility that it is carcinogenic in mice at high doses. These findings led some to question whether it is truly harmful to humans at low doses. These foggy findings frustrated many, including some Republicans on the House Science Committee who threatened in February 2018 to cut off U.S. funding to the IARC. Others suggest that consumers, particularly children, are exposed to more glyphosate than we know and believe that ignoring these findings is irresponsible. A recent study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWP) found trace amounts of the herbicide in oats, granolas and snack bars and just two months ago, the State of California found Monsanto liable for a groundskeeper’s lymphoma that he developed after years of handling roundup.
According to Stonyfield, soil is the heart of organic grounds management. Unlike conventional practices, organic management relies on organic inputs and fertilizers to keep the grounds healthy. Unlike personal lawns, organic grounds management requires extensive knowledge of the ecosystem in question, which starts with testing pH and the soil’s ability to hold nutrients. Not all soil requires the same care, so after being tested, a custom management plan that could include updating mowing strategies, planting organic grass and determining necessary organic inputs is created.
Stonyfield “hope[s] to help build a movement across the country to create healthier parks, fields and place spaces for our loved ones,” Drociak said.
To kick off the partnership, Stonyfield and the City of Hyattsville are hosting a family-friendly event Sunday, Oct. 21, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Stonyfield Day will include a ribbon cutting, organic food, crafts, face painting, education, and games. Live music will be provided by the Jimi Smooth Band.