City of Reno

Staff Report

Staff Report (For Possible Action): Update, discussion and potential approval of a Pesticide-Free Parks program for twelve City parks.


Department:Parks and RecreationSponsors:
Category:Approval of Reports or Plans


  1. Printout
  2. Pesticide Free Parks Web Map

Recommendation and Proposed Motion

Recommendation:  Staff recommends that City Council approve the Pesticide-Free Parks program for twelve City parks.


Proposed Motion:  I move to approve staff recommendation.

Staff Report Formal Body

Summary: Staff requests that City Council approve a Pesticide-Free Parks program for 12 Reno parks.  This is intended to be a pilot program for two years to gauge effectiveness and public response, at which time staff will report back to Council.  Staff identified two downtown parks and worked with the Neighborhood Advisory Boards to select two parks within their Ward, for a total of 12 parks.  The Recreation and Parks Commission also recommends that Council approve the program.


Previous Council Action:  On June 10, 2015, City Council directed staff to explore a pesticide free parks program.


Discussion:  Parks staff uses a variety of methods to control weeds in parks and landscaped rights-of-way.   These include manual controls such as hand pulling and hoeing, mechanical controls such as string trimming and scraping, and chemical control with herbicide.   Given current staffing levels in Park Maintenance, weed control is a relatively low priority task although during the past two seasons our time spent has increased because persistent spring rains resulted in greater weed growth throughout the parks system.  During the past four seasons, staff spent an average of 1.4 percent of our total park maintenance time applying herbicides for weed control efforts; during the same period staff spent over four percent (4.1 percent) on manual or mechanical weed control tasks.


Staff uses herbicides for control of weeds in planter areas, decomposed granite (DG) areas and baseball infields, and for control of weeds and grass along fence lines and around trees, signs and other obstacles.  Staff does not use herbicide for weed control in grass fields.


Our chemical control has been with the use of glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the product under the trade name Roundup®.  Glyphosate has been commercially available since 1974 and is the most widely used herbicide in the world because of its effectiveness and low cost.  As recently as 2013, published studies concluded that "the available data is contradictory and far from being convincing" with regard to correlations between exposure to glyphosate formulations and risk of various cancers.  However, in March 2015, the World Health Organization published a summary of its upcoming report on glyphosate in which it will be classified as "probably carcinogenic in humans."


Given this new information, the City is looking at ways to reduce herbicide use in parks.  Staff reviewed pesticide-free programs of other agencies, particularly those in the western United States, and identified the following criteria to implement a pesticide-free program at select neighborhood parks.  These are:


·         Select several neighborhood parks (three-eight acres) with standard amenities (playground, courts, shelter)

·         Parks should have minimal area devoted to shrub beds or have shrub beds that require minimal upkeep

·         Parks should not have natural areas with existing invasive weed problems

·         Time spent on manual weed control can range from 20 – 40 percent higher than prior to designation, depending on site characteristics

·         Agencies should not expect regular volunteer support for manual weed control


With these criteria, staff proposed each Neighborhood Advisory Board select two parks within its boundary to designate as pesticide-free for a two year trial period.  These parks will be identified by signage on site and highlighted on the City’s website. The proposed sites are:

              Downtown:  Barbara Bennett Park and Wingfield Park

              Ward 1:  Canyon Creek Park, Plumas Park

              Ward 2:  Virginia Lake Park (playground/shelter area and dog park), Crystal Lake Park

              Ward 3:  Pat Baker Park and Wilkinson Park

              Ward 4:  Raleigh Heights Park and Silver Lake Park

              Ward 5:  Lake Park and Whitaker Park


As “pesticide-free,” staff will discontinue the routine use of herbicides for general weed control in these twelve parks.  We will test alternative strategies which may include use of organic or non-registered products, weed burning, and/or additional manual or mechanical weed control efforts.  However, our total time spent on weed control will not differ significantly from past practices because of inadequate funding. Staff will track the effectiveness and cost of these efforts and adjust accordingly to remain within budget.  In the event short-term chemical control becomes necessary to control an outbreak of noxious weeds or insects which pose a hazard to our tree inventory, then staff will post signage on site and issue public notice to advise the public when these products are used.


Parks staff also attended a training session sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, a national nonprofit organization promoting alternatives to pesticide use.  This training program was targeted toward turf maintenance through organic methods.  While here, they took soil and plant samples at Wingfield and Barbara Bennett Parks with the intention of suggesting alternative management strategies for turf maintenance at these two sites.  Staff has not yet received any information from them.  Once received, we will evaluate their recommendations but since Reno does not use herbicides for turf maintenance, any changes will be outside our “pesticide-free” program.


Financial Implications:  There are no cost implications as staff will implement changes within its adopted budget.


Legal Implications:  Legal review completed for compliance with City procedures and Nevada Law.


Meeting History

Sep 23, 2015 10:00 AM Video Reno City Council & Redevelopment Agency Board Joint Regular

Mayor Schieve called for public comment. There were no requests to speak.

Jeff Mann, Parks Manager, made the presentation.

The Council upheld the staff recommendation and approved the Pesticide-Free Parks program for 12 City parks.

MOVER:Paul McKenzie, Councilmember
SECONDER:Oscar Delgado, Councilmember
AYES:Hillary Schieve, Jenny Brekhus, Oscar Delgado, Paul McKenzie, Neoma Jardon, David Bobzien
ABSENT:Naomi Duerr