Despite a bumper crop of dandelions that sparked resident complaints about unsightly public parks, commons and ballfields, Riverside trustees last week said they wanted to continue limiting the use of herbicides, with Village President Joseph Ballerine calling on public works to come up with a hybrid system for controlling the weeds.
Public Works Director Dan Tabb said that complaints about the dandelion-dotted appearance of Riverside’s large swaths of greenspace had led in recent weeks to public works employees mowing grass Monday through Friday until dark and also mowing on Saturdays in order to keep up with the weed growth.
“By the end of May [the dandelions] should be gone,” Tabb said. “By early June they’re there, but they’re not sprouting and going to seed.”
Tabb outlined three options for controlling dandelions, spraying all 87 acres of the village’s public greenspaces in-house, which in addition to the cost for herbicide and fuel would entail three employees – the forester and two water department employees – spending a total of 120 hours on the task during the peak dandelion season. In all, that would cost $3,450, said Tabb.
The village could also hire a contractor to spray the village’s greenspaces with herbicide at a cost of about $7,600, said Tabb. The most expensive option, he said, would be stepping up the village’s mowing efforts to keep pace with dandelion growth, an additional cost of about $8,000.
Riverside hasn’t used herbicides on its public greenspaces in any significant fashion since 2016. Tabb said his public works has used herbicides recently mainly as a way to control weed growth along fence lines and parking lot perimeters.
Trustee Edward Hannon advocated for spraying, saying that the herbicide used by the village — a product called Confront – was reported to be safe for humans and animals.
“I get the general concern about herbicides – there’s the big Roundup case that everyone heard about – but this specific herbicide is not Roundup,” Hannon said. “I just want to make sure we’re making a decision based on science and not based on fear and anecdotal science.”
But Hannon’s colleagues on the board weren’t convinced, pointing to the fact that when village employees apply Confront, they do so wearing respirators and full Tyvek HAZMAT suits.
“I think in the interest of public safety there is so much we still don’t know about so many of these chemical compounds and the environment,” said Trustee Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga. “And, we should do everything possible to stay away from or minimize herbicide use.”
Ballerine asked whether there was some hybrid solution, where herbicides could be used to control dandelions in some of the more visible public spaces, such as the greenspaces in the downtown area, while ramping up mowing sooner in other areas, like two commons areas and ballparks.
“What I’d like to know is, will that answer the concerns of Trustee Hannon, that we want a village that we can be proud of and looks good, and also answers the concerns of … some other trustees that would really rather keep herbicides to a minimum?”
All of the trustees agreed that the best solution for Swan Pond Park would be to not mow it at all, except for some pathways, and keep it as natural a setting as possible.
Hannon indicated that he didn’t believe, extra mowing was the solution, remarking after Tabb stated his crews had upped their mowing three weeks ago to control the dandelions, “It didn’t work.”