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November 11, 2013

Pesticides benched at Doubleday Field

Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — What began last year as an effort to reduce reliance on the application of synthetic pesticides at historic Doubleday Field in Cooperstown succeeded this year in eliminating use of the toxic herbicides and pesticides altogether, village Mayor Jeff Katz said Sunday.

“We decided last year we wanted to move away from pesticides and this year we got it all the way down to zero,” said Katz.

Katz said village officials and the head groundskeeper for Doubleday field, Quentin Hasak, were given guidance by Jennifer Grant, co-director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University in how to wean the field from herbicide applications.

Grant discussed her work over the weekend to attendees at the Glimmerglass Film Days, a new film festival organized by Otsego 2000.

The village’s accomplishment this year at a playing field widely regarded as a shrine to the national pastime will likely attract national recognition, as the environmental movement has been highlighting its concerns with the health impacts of chemicals to treat lawns and playgrounds, officials said.

Doubleday Field, one of the nation’s most famous baseball diamonds, is owned and managed by the Village of Cooperstown. The field hosts more than 250 events each year. In 2004, it was named Baseball Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association.

The move to eradicate synthetic pesticides at Doubleday has its genesis in the pressure first applied on the village several years ago by Michael Whaling of Sharon Springs. The stonewall builder and Vietnam veteran argued that the use of toxic herbicides would result in carcinogens getting into Otsego Lake, the supply of drinking water for some 2,000 people.

Whaling said he was thankful to both Katz and village Trustee James Dean, the chairman of the village’s Environmental Committee, for shepherding the goal of eliminating pesticides at the field.

“We just had National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, and people wore pink to show their concern, which is all well and good,” Whaling said. “But in addition to being concerned we should be doing something about it. Lawn chemicals and turf chemicals are known to be carcinogens, yet we continue to use them for aesthetic purposes.”

The new integrated pest management practices being used at Doubleday include using entomopathogenic nematodes as a biological control of white grubs, officials said.

Some environmentalists have been pushing for a government ban on “cosmetic” pesticides that have been prohibited in the Canadian province of Ontario since April 2009.

The Office of the Ontario Ministry of Health said this year: “We have listened to medical experts – like the Canadian Cancer Society – who have made a convincing case for reducing our exposure to pesticides, particularly children who are generally more susceptible to the potential toxic effects of pesticides.”

The ban there overrides municipal pesticide bylaws, establishing what Ontario officials called one clear set of rules that makes it easier for businesses to follow.

Health experts have linked exposure to pesticides not only to cancer but also to behavioral impairment, reproductive dysfunction, endocrine disruption, developmental disabilities, ADHD, Autism, skin conditions, Parkinson’s Syndrome, respiratory diseases such as asthma and learning disabilities..

In June, Katz succeeded in convincing the state Department of Transportation to suspend the application of chemical herbicides along a stretch of State Route 80 that runs along the west bank of Otsego Lake. That move had been recommended by the Otsego Lake Watershed Advisory Committee, but the state agency initially resisted it.

DOT officials have said they would not rule out resuming herbicide applications at a later date.

In a statement released to The Daily Star in June, DOT Regional Director Jack Williams stated: “The department maintains that the use of herbicides, in general, and Accord XRT II in particular along this corridor, is an acceptable risk, based on the application method and best practices.”