Do-Over in Durango: Western Town Goes Organic After All
By Joseph Boardman for SafeLawns
DURANGO, CO. — Completely reversing its course of action in a span of two weeks, the city council of this western community voted unanimously Wednesday night to adopt organic lawn care principles on all of its parks.
After voting 5-0 in late August against an ordinance that would have banned all synthetic pesticides on all publicly owned property, the city council opted not to gamble on bringing the issue to a public vote in the upcoming November election. Instead, the council took the advice of SafeLawns founder Paul Tukey, who advocated for a compromise during his testimony on Aug. 21.
Wednesday night’s passage of “A Resolution Establishing an Organically Managed Lands Program” came after almost daily negotiation between the somewhat reluctant city councilors and group of impassioned residents in favor of organics. The resolution calls for an initial allocation of $36,000 to hire an organic land management consultant to create, monitor and evaluate a phased-in program in the next few years.
“This $36,000 is a more effective way to spend money than on an election that would be very divisive,” said City Councilor Christina Rinderle.
The contentious nature of the issue was evident when several professional landscapers — who advocate for synthetic chemical methods of lawn care — angrily left the council meeting without commenting to local media.
“This isn’t over,” said a caller in a message to the SafeLawns office. “Stay the hell out of our business if you know what’s good for you.”
Asked about the sternly worded message, SafeLawns founder Tukey said it was indicative of the rhetoric and tactics of the synthetic chemical lawn care industry, which continues to run fear and smear campaigns against organic lawn care advocates.
“I’m delighted that both sides rose above the fray and compromised in Durango,” said Tukey during a phone call from the site of the SafeLawns research project at Glenstone in Potomac, Md. “The organic advocates agreed to take the issue off the ballot, where they almost certainly would have prevailed, and agree to work with the city officials. The city, in turn, is taking the proper steps to get educated by the nation’s leading experts so that the program will be successful.”
Tukey provided the names of several of the nation’s organic lawn care specialists, who can now provide bids to implement Durango’s new program.
“The goal of the City of Durango Organically Managed Lands Program
is to extend organic management practices to all City lands and to minimize the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on such lands, while maintaining City facilities at a quality consistent with City standards and the expectations of the public users of such facilities,” reads the new agreement.
A three-person committee has been formed to recruit and evaluate bidders, a process estimated to take three weeks.
“We are supposed to start the review ASAP and we will keep you posted,” said committee member Tricia Gourley in an email to Tukey. “Thanks for all your help in making this happen here!”