Sustainable Municipal Turf Management

Demands for outright municipal bans on pesticides have varied outcomes. Without a transition time or commitment to organic alternatives, the results on public turf areas, sports fields in particular, are often unsatisfactory. Where a commitment to orderly pesticide reduction has been paralleled with the phasing in of organic practises, however, results have been very encouraging.

The City of Gloucester adopted Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and reduced pesticide usage to below 10% of managed areas (primarily heavily used soccer fields). The City of Waterloo, which applied pesticides to 73% of its green space during the 70's, refined IPM into its Plant Health Care Program (PHCP), and treats less than 0.1% of its green space. In addition to the environmental and health advantages, Waterloo credits PHCP with reducing its maintenance cost per acre by 40% over the past 6 years.

Both municipalities have the following policies:

As Brian Detzler, Waterloo's Parks Manager, puts it, "IPM is reactive turf management. PHCP is proactive turf management." Gloucester agrees. PHCP involves formal checking, at least monthly in the case of sports fields, for bare patches, weeds, insects, compaction and drought, and detailed records of daily maintenance. Instead of aerating when knotweed is found (a symptom of compaction), PHCP enables a manager to aerate before excessive compaction occurs in the first place. Waterloo's program also involves the empowerment of employees: "Everyone is responsible for monitoring their turf and equipment. Employee awareness and input are essential to the program's success."

Waterloo has demonstrated that turf quality can improve, and costs can be reduced, by avoiding pesticides and promoting natural plant health instead. Gloucester successfully proceeded along the same path. Your municipality can too.


Provided by the Health Dangers of Urban Use of Pesticides Working Group of the Region of Ottawa-Carleton, Ontario Canada. Approved by Regional government and by the Ottawa-Carleton Health Department. Please feel free to copy.