Health should outweigh aesthetic

To the editor,

If you haven’t yet heard a call for action from one of your impassioned pals, there is a conflict over organic parks in Durango. To provide readers with some awareness, in 2012, a local group started an organic park initiative to eliminate the use of herbicides in Durango parks. Was the goal to ultimately “ugli-fy” Durango playgrounds and fields so kids would avoid the outdoors and spend more time inside watching TV? No (and pardon my sarcasm … it stems from concern.)

The goal was to offer parks that don’t get treated with chemicals so citizens have a choice in their environment. Maybe some people are OK with exposure to Vessel, and don’t believe herbicides have adverse effects. Everyone’s opinions are valid – and challengeable. Based on an EPA-issued Material Safety Data Sheet, Vessel is “acutely” and “chronic[ally] hazardous.” According to the EPA, hazards include irreversible eye damage, skin irritation, vomiting and fatality if swallowed. If in doubt, look it up (please no fun “experiments.”)

I researched the problems of herbicides and don’t want to be forced to come face to face with them when I am downward dogging at Triangle Park while kids are rolling around and giggling at their own version of “zen.” I want public options that align with my values.

Back to the aforementioned concern: I don’t know why the “aesthetic” of the land outweighs the health and wellbeing of our communities. Although ultimately I would support a complete overhaul with all parks eliminating the use of herbicides, I am currently just asking for more options. The City of Durango unanimously passed a resolution committing a third of the park lands to be managed organically for a minimum of three years. Forty-three percent of park land is being removed from the program after only one year, without the recommendation of the consultant. Did I mention my concern? Why is the City allowed to pull out of the agreement? Does the resolution carry no truth or weight? In a few months’

time, will options that support the wellbeing of the community be completely turned down?

I imagine that there has been accolades in the past for the beauty and look of the parks. Isn’t that a need that can be met without compromising our health? I would definitely give multiple high fives and hugs to whatever city leaders would work toward this goal. Maybe that’s not a valued commodity these days. Chicago won the 2014 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Parks and Recreation. According to the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, “90 percent of Chicago parks are herbicide free … (and) by not spraying weed killer, the city saved $1.4 million per application.” A gold medal probably outweighs my hug (a debate for another day).

Some people are against organic parks because they claim kids are twisting ankles and getting hurt. I see a need for safety and, again, I feel confused. I believe defeating the Durango stumbling problem can be attained without chemicals. Plus, if safety is such an important matter, doesn’t that loop back to the benefit of organic options in the first place?

So this leads to my requests. Yes, plural. I ask you Telegraph perusers to spend a day at any one of our organic Durango parks such as Fanto, Folsom, Schneider, Brookside, Riverview, Needham, Iris, Riverfront or Pioneer. Question your definitions of “beauty” and “aesthetics.” Have children? Bring them! If you don’t, just sit for a moment and watch. Do the kids seem affected by the clover-to-grass ratio? Are they moping with arms crossed because they want the landscape design to more closely mimic Versailles? I can safely bet the answer is no, and given my experience as a teacher and child-care provider, the kids are simply in the present moment, enjoying free space to play. Unfortunately, most kids aren’t aware what is being sprayed and don’t have a say in the matter. Maybe that’s an issue, too?

I request that we increase awareness on this subject. What do you know about herbicides? Do you want future generations to be exposed with no alternatives? When it comes to a public park, what matters to you and why? I am not here to answer for you, reader. I simply ask that you ask. I encourage the continued exploration of alternatives like compost tea, organic top dressing, aeration and over-seeding. Lastly I ask for understanding and patience with the process of shifting from non-organic practices to organic alternatives. Like changing jobs or brands of T.P., there’s a transition period folks.

For more information or to get involved, go to or check out the Telegraph’s calendar listings for organic parks events.

– Katie Jank, Durango

Anachronistic Imaginings

While waiting to buy

new tires, I looked up

and out the big bay window

toward the grey and purple layers

of the Cretaceous anticline

exposed across La Posta Road.

Trying to ignore the cacophony

of air guns and the smell of rubber,

I laughed and thought of how T-Rex

never needed retreads. 

Right here at this spot, his feet

sinking in Paleozoic muck. 

Straining he roars, 

struggling for release.

Finallay with great effort

and heaving

with exhaustion,

he extricates

himself from the deadly ooze

and blinks at me repeatedly.

Now, breathing more

rapidly, he moans

and haunches down to rest

and within seconds,

like a bird to flight       

he disappears

in another predatory pursuit.

“Sir … excuse me sir, your car is ready!”

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio