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Town Outlines Plans For Fields

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A pesticide flag on Veteran's Field last year.
A pesticide flag on Veteran’s Field last year.
Saying that the Town Council “has made it clear” that it wants changes in field care, Verona’s director of community services, Jim Cunningham, told the council last week that Verona will end the use of synthetic pesticides on all but three green spaces controlled by the town.

Cunningham said that, going forward, the town will use synthetic pesticides only at the Civic Center, the Bloomfield/Pompton intersection and the Verona Pool. The town will continue to aerate and seed all town properties, as well as the grounds of the four public elementary schools. In addition, it has decided to implement organic field care at Veterans Field by the Community Center.

The plan follows the discovery last year that TruGreen, a contractor retained by the town, had applied synthetic pesticides at town playing fields, as well as at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School and both fields at Verona High School. Schools in New Jersey are required to use a natural field care process. Town Council members said in December that they wanted the town to create safer playing fields.

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Veterans Field on Linn Drive was chosen for the organic test because it has an irrigation system, something that is critical for getting organic care off on the right foot. The field is heavily used by youth sports and is in poor condition, despite years of maintenance by TruGreen. Cunningham said the town has been talking to two potential organic care vendors, but has not made a decision and he did not know when the organic care would start.

Cunningham said that synthetic pesticides would be used at the pool grounds because the clover there causes it to have many bees. “If you sit in my chair, you get multiple calls about bee stings a day,” he added. Cunningham said, however, that the pesticide treatment would be pre- and post-pool season only; in the past, the town has had the grounds sprayed while the pool was in use and on at least one occasion the contractor sprayed the grounds while the swim team was practicing.

But clover is a beneficial ground cover and there are other ways of blunting its growth than pesticides. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil, which helps grass grow, and it is resistant to drought. Pesticides have been named as one of the causes of colony collapse disorder, which caused millions of bees to die in the last decade. Healthy bees are critical to the successful growth of fruit and crops.

Instead of killing the clover with pesticides, the town could simply dig it up and reseed the area with some other sort of ground cover. Asked about that alternative this morning, Town Manager Joe Martin said he had “no idea” why the town was not digging up the clover.

Martin tossed the maintenance of HBW and VHS back into the Board of Education’s court. All of those fields are irrigated, and could have been converted to organic care as well. Superintendent Steven A. Forte said the BOE would be talking about field care at its March and April meetings.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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