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Posted on: July 10, 2019

Dubuque Adds Five More Pesticide-Free Parks

The City of Dubuque Leisure Services Department has designated five more parks as pesticide-free, bringing Dubuque’s total to 15 pesticide-free parks. No chemicals are used to manage the landscape in the entire footprint of these parks.


The new pesticide-free parks are Washington Park (700 Locust St.), Jackson Park (1500 Main St.), Granger Creek Nature Trail (Dubuque Technology Park), Grant Park (1500 Bluff St.) and the Pet Park (2501 N. Grandview Ave.).  New signs have been installed in each of these parks showing their designation as pesticide-free parks.

The original nine pesticide-free parks are:  Allison-Henderson Park (1500 Loras Blvd.), Cleveland Park (625 Cleveland Ave.), Falk Park (1701 Earl Dr.), Maus Park (599 Huff St.), Pinard Park (2819 Pinard St.), Riley Park (3356 Lunar Dr.), Southern Park (200 Southern Ave.), Teddy Bear Park (4900 Gabriel Dr.), Usha Park (3937 Pennsylvania Ave.), and Welu Park (3655 Welu Dr.).  A map of the parks is available at www.cityofdubuque.org/ipm.  The 15 pesticide-free parks were chosen because they are located throughout the Dubuque community, giving all residents access to pesticide-free areas, and because they consist of landscapes that can be managed without the use of chemicals.  

No chemicals are used to manage the landscape in the entire footprint of the pesticide-free parks. Instead, staff create maintenance-friendly landscapes that reduce the need for weed management and employ mechanical techniques such as mulching, mowing, string trimming or hand-weeding to manage weeds. Because techniques like weeding and mulching are more labor intensive, volunteers are encouraged and should call the leisure services department for more information. If it becomes necessary to apply pesticides at a pesticide-free park due to a public health or safety threat, notification will be clearly posted at the site before, during, and after the application to inform users of the situation. 

Dubuque first announced the decision to create pesticide-free parks in 2016 when nine parks were given the designation as part of the development of the City’s integrated pest management (IPM) program to reduce chemical use in the City’s outdoor spaces and facilities. Implementation of the IPM program is an ongoing process, and staff continue to explore the most effective and least toxic method for controlling pests.  

The leisure services department continues to work to implement an IPM program in City parks. Employees have designated areas where pesticide use is restricted, improved park design to limit future need to use pesticides, and have identified best practices in park maintenance to minimize pesticide use.  As part of the department’s review of its practices, it was decided that play structures with a defined boundary of the playground safety surfacing (mulch, sand, etc.) will also not be treated with chemicals.  The City currently has 285 of these defined playground structure spaces.  The only time these areas will receive chemical treatment is when there is a threat to public health and safety, such as a nest of bees or wasps in or on the play equipment.  Notification of chemical use would be clearly posted before, during, and after chemical application.

Although pesticide use has been greatly reduced in Dubuque’s 35 other parks, pesticides are used when necessary to manage noxious and invasive weeds, as well as pest infestations near higher-use areas.   With over 1,000 acres of parks and open space to maintain, the leisure services department uses pesticides at times as a cost-effective method to steward public land. Since 2016, the City has offered a public notification system for when it will apply chemical treatments to weeds, insects, and other pests at other public parks and rights-of-way in the city.  To receive these notifications, please visit www.cityofdubuque.org/notifyme and subscribe to the “Pesticide Application Notification” Notify Me option.

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