When my son was just a toddler (back in the '70s), we decided to take a day trip to a state park in a neighboring county. It was a beautiful area, situated on the edge of a small lake, with lots of trees shading the walking paths and a nice picnic area. As the three of us walked hand in hand, our son started to sneeze and get a runny nose. Within just a short time, his little face started to swell, and, recognizing an allergic reaction, we left immediately. By the time we got back to town, he was having difficulty breathing, so we rushed him to the hospital emergency room. Needless to say, it was a tense experience.
Like any concerned parent, I wanted to know what had caused this reaction in my child so that I could prevent it from happening again. After a few phone calls, I learned that this park had been sprayed with a pretty hefty dose of chemical pesticide/herbicide just days before we were there. I also learned that all the state parks were sprayed in similar fashion on a regular basis. That was the last trip we made to a state park in Mississippi.
Chemical pesticides and herbicides are still used regularly in public parks--city, county, state and federal. However, it is encouraging to hear that some local governments are taking a more environmentally and people friendly approach. In Albemarle County, Virginia (where my lovely daughter Becca lives), the county board of supervisors has just instituted a new policy of using only organic means to control insects and weeds. And in Durango, Colorado, a group of concerned citizens (mostly mothers) banded together and convinced the city to make their newest park (Brookside) chemical free.
Elected officials and public service employees work for the public (that's all of us), and my experience has been that they are generally pretty receptive to public input, especially if many people make comments. We do have an influence on what happens in our communities, as evidenced in Virginia and Colorado. Our county commissioners here in Montana are currently in the process of creating new zoning regulations to address the problem of chemical contaminants in the ground water (there largely as a result of what people put on their lawns and in their septic systems). All local governments are required to have public comment periods before they pass new regulations, so I want to be a part of this process. My life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren, are at stake.