At Wheeler High School in North Stonington, Connecticut, the soccer field was overrun by grubs, which were overrun by skunks and crows. You can guess the results: The soccer field was ravaged.
So you’re probably asking: Why didn’t the school’s athletic field manager spray an insecticide to kill the grubs so the skunks and crows didn’t mistake the field for their own Golden Corral?
The answer: Because he wasn’t allowed to.
Four years ago, Connecticut passed a law that banned lawn care pesticides on turfgrass if children in grades eight and lower use the fields. Alas, the law caught up with the field, make that fields. Yes, several fields in the North Stonington area have deteriorated because they’re not allowed to use pesticides.
“The fields are pretty much ruined,” North Stonington Public Schools Superintendent Peter Nero told a local news station.
As a result, the boys’ soccer and girls’ lacrosse teams had to travel to other towns to play their “home” games. How convenient.
It was a bummer for North Stonington senior soccer player TJ Condon, who didn’t get to play the last game of his high school career on the field that he had been playing on since he was a freshman.
Let’s cut to the chase: Nobody in the sports field maintenance industry wants young kids, or anyone for that matter, exposed to pesticides that can hurt them. But a good sports field manager knows that if he uses a pesticide responsibly – according to the label and taking the utmost safety precautions – then there shouldn’t be a problem with kids or anyone else getting sick or getting cancer or another life-threatening disease later in life. I’m not a Homer for pesticide companies; I just believe that most sports field managers and their crews are responsible when it comes to using pesticides. They’re also trained and certified to perform the task.
The problem is that the people making the decisions – or lobbying the masses to make the decisions with propaganda – are doing so based on emotion. They don’t like pesticides and never will, never mind that fields like North Stonington are ruined and closed and may be unsafe to play on because they’re so ripped up. I’m sure the people who led the charge to ban pesticide use on the North Stonington fields didn’t want to hear that some insecticides provide season-long control, which means they only need to be applied once.
North Stonington officials were told to use organic products to take care of turf pests. Nothing against organics – there are some fine products out there – but it’s a hard road to control grubs and other pests with only organic products.
Nobody should be surprised by what happened in North Stonington. In fact, if the sports field management industry doesn’t go on the offensive to educate the general public that pesticides can be used responsibly, you’ll see this happening more often around the country in time.
Sports field managers need to do their part. It’s time to take it to the streets, literally. Educate people. Explain that you use pesticides responsibly, and because of that they are safe to use on fields where children and adults play.
It’s one more responsibility to add to your already full schedule, but its importance can’t be denied.