People call it “a tipping point,” and no, much as I celebrate our restaurants and those who work in them, right now I’m not talking about when a check shows up at the end of a meal.
This is about the moment when we make a big shift in thinking and action, when a whole new approach takes over and suddenly (at least it seems sudden) we are seeing and doing things in a profoundly different way.
Our towns are at a tipping point when it comes to how we take care of our ballfields and playgrounds, our right-of-ways and open spaces. I believe we are going to make a fundamental shift away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides, turn to organic approaches to keep our fields green and our roadways open. We’ll make healthier places for our kids to play, we’ll save money doing it, and a few years later we’ll look back and wonder why we didn’t go this way sooner.
A presentation at the Cape Cod Selectmen and Councilors’ Association last Friday, Sept. 14, really drove the point home. A fellow by the name of Charles “Chip” Osborne offered his thoughts, using some fancy terms like “turf management protocol,” “changing mechanisms of fertility,” and so on. But it was truly a down-to-earth conversation; Osborne has run the Town of Marblehead’s land management for a dozen years. The town is basically pesticide-free, uses no synthetic fertilizers to keep its fields green, and shaved $18,000 off its budget by eliminating costly chemical purchases.
Osborne makes a compelling case that our reliance on a whole range of chemicals to grow grass, keep land open, and kill bugs is great for the companies that manufacture those products, but neither necessary nor best practice for our communities.
“This really is about focusing on our soils,” said Osborne. “You grab a handful, analyze it, and then build up its qualities with some organic input. Then you bring mowing, irrigation, and good cultural practices to the forefront, instead of relying on synthetics.
“We all know that Cape Cod soil is different from soil in other places. But the bags of products sold at Home Depot are the same across much of the United States. That can’t be what’s best for us. And while years ago an organic approach might have cost 25 to 30 percent more, with new, proven techniques that’s no longer true. It’s even-steven for cost up front, with dramatic savings once the organic practices take hold.”
For parents whose kids play on our ballfields, the peace of mind in knowing that there are no chemicals applied is profound. And for communities facing environmental crisis caused in part by nitrogen leaching into the groundwater, eliminating nitrogen fertilizers on town property is one of many positive steps that could and should be taken.
We all know about the controversies surrounding our utility, NStar, whether it should spray to control growth along its right-of-ways. Every Cape town has passed a resolution asking NStar to refrain. But if our towns continue to use some of those very same chemicals on land we control, the standard becomes double. Osborne is offering an alternative that is organic, and proven.
The great news is that Chip Osborne will be offering a day-long seminar on this topic, covering everything from watering and mowing tactics to pest control. Sponsored by GreenCAPE, the regional environmental group, Osborne’s presentation is free and open to any and all municipal employees. The date is Tuesday, Oct. 30, in Barnstable Town Hall. Pre-registration is required by Oct. 5; the best way to sign up is at www. GreenCAPE.org.
Here comes the tipping point.