We’re not out of the woods yet on shaking off the cold and snow of winter, but it’s beginning to look a lot like spring in Lyons. Animals are prepping nests for their young, gardeners are spreading compost, and Lyons Parks and Public Works department is gearing up for another season of tending our beautiful parks and open spaces. This year we have even more reason to get outside: a newly adopted weed management plan promises to greatly reduce synthetic herbicides used on public lands throughout Lyons. This ambitious, community-driven initiative allows Lyons to join a growing number of communities across the country who have chosen to prioritize protecting human and ecosystem health.
Synthetic chemicals can persist in environments, accumulating in food chains and causing toxic effects on a variety of species. Chronic exposure to certain herbicides has also been linked to growth and reproductive effects in humans and wildlife. In response to growing citizen concern over these negative impacts, Parks and Public Works Director Dave Cosgrove has increased efforts to reduce herbicide use in Lyons parks. “People are trying to find better and healthier ways to manage land,” said Cosgrove. “Given the nature of the issues revolving around herbicide use, this is on the list of topics most communities are discussing. But being in a watershed, this obviously makes sense for us.”
Lyons is required by the Colorado Noxious Weed Act to control certain plant species identified as non-native and invasive and to have in place a weed management plan. The Lyons Board of Trustees has delegated this task to the Ecology Advisory Board (EAB). In 2018, the EAB requested a volunteer subgroup to prepare an updated Weed Management Plan for consideration by the BoT that better incorporated community concerns.
After two years of negotiating and with the input of dozens of community members, the EAB, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Board of Trustees (BoT), and Cosgrove hammered out the details of a comprehensive integrated weed management plan that aims to balance human and ecosystem health and safety with the state-required invasive weed control. The plan was adopted July 22, 2020 following a unanimous vote by the BoT.
The new plan formalizes reductions in synthetic herbicide use, stating that “in order to provide maximum protection to all residents and desirable plant species, no synthetic herbicides are used in the public parks.” This includes Bohn Park, LaVern M Johnson Park, Sandstone Park, and Lyons River Park. It also encourages the use of organic products in place of synthetics if needed, requires better communication with citizens regarding the type, timing and location of chemical applications so that people could avoid such areas if they prefer, and emphasizes weed prevention through mulching, mowing, hand pulling and grass seeding.
The plan does not outright ban synthetic chemicals, particularly in public areas such as hardscaped medians, buy-out lots, and open space. However, in these locations, other weed control methods must be attempted first. Limited and targeted herbicides may be considered if initial methods are unsuccessful. This flexibility is a feature that Cosgrove and Ian Brighton (chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission) say is a strength of the new plan. “The plan is science-based and evidence-based,” Brighton said. “But it does allow for herbicide use for situations where we have invasives causing problems.”
This spring marks the first growing season in which the new plan is in place. Cosgrove and Brighton acknowledge that it may take time to work out the kinks, particularly regarding nuisance weeds such as dandelions. The new plan specifically stipulates that “synthetic chemicals are not applied for cosmetic purposes or for nuisance weeds,” a distinction that was critical to proponents of reduced herbicide use.
“It’s going to take some education and potential balance in terms of what people are used to seeing,” Brighton said. “But a nuisance weed is not a reason to expose someone to a chemical if they don’t want to be.”
Non-chemical methods can go a long way with keeping weeds out of town spaces, said Tracey Holderman, a Lyons resident who contributed to developing the new plan. “We can get used to seeing things like dandelions and learn to appreciate them for the positive benefits that they bring for bees and other pollinators,” she said. “I think it’s also a point of pride for Lyons and Lyons businesses. They get to say: ‘Hey, we care about our community, visitors and our environment.’”
Proponents of reduced herbicide use hope that Lyons can be a positive example for other communities. “We are blessed with so much riparian corridor, and we need to protect it,” said Brighton. “Any community should strive to do this, whether out on the plains or up in a mountain valley. All ecosystems, all land benefit from this kind of approach.”
“Enacting the plan will be challenging,” said Cosgrove. “But the town also has a lot of great volunteers and people that are willing to help. I think if those two things can come together, there’s a lot of opportunity here.”
If you would like to be part of Lyons beautification and weed control efforts, please reach out to Parks and Public Works Department, Lyons Volunteers, the Ecology Advisory Board, or the Parks and Recreation Commission.
EDITOR’S NOTE: VOLUNTEERS TO WEED == There will be two groups doing this all summer.
The Town has sponsored one that will work the first Friday of each month /and/ the long-standing Weed Posse will return in May.
== Watch for our article for full details!