Thanks to journalist Bill Rettew of the Daily Local News for this tribute to the power of flowers and the Green Team’s efforts to beautiful our area and make it more sustainable! And of course congratulations to Christiane for her contributions to the streetscape.
As Christiane says in the article: “Planting these beautiful flowers or plants provides much more habitat and food to insects and birds compared to just grass. It’s one step you can take to contribute to the environment and it looks beautiful.”
Read more at the Daily Local News, July 7, 2021. For another example of the Green Team’s lawn-to-garden conversion program, see here.
Are you interested in an affordable DIY project to convert your monoculture lawn into a gorgeous and ecologically beneficial native pollinator garden? West Chester Transition Team’s Living Landscapes Committee created a publicly accessible native pollinator garden located in the 500 block of South Maryland Ave in West Chester Borough to showcase this technique and educate the public on the benefits.
Visible from the sidewalk, the new 200-square-foot native pollinator garden will provide nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and food for caterpillars. Native plants have evolved to act as hosts to our native insects and therefore provide a highly valuable resource that cannot be provided by non-natives.
Before the area was planted with a mix of native grasses and perennials, the turfgrass had to be removed first. To do this, the committee chose to use the technique commonly known as smothering or tarping, also called solarization or occultation. Thick black plastic sheeting was laid down on the area in mid-March and stayed in place for five weeks. Next the plastic was removed, and the area was exposed to sunlight and precipitation for two weeks. Finally, the plastic was re-laid over the area for a final one-to-two week period to kill any remaining weeds and grass.
When the tarp was removed, the dead material was raked up, which also helped prepare the surface for planting. The plants used for this bed were purchased from an online nursery that provides small 4”-plugs consisting of over 13 different native species assembled in a pre-assembled “pollinator garden.” Two pollinator garden trays, totaling 100 plugs of 14 different native species were purchased in February. The goal for this site was to plant the area densely for maximum first-season growth and success.
The planting layout design was developed by one of the Committee members, Michele Hensey of Lifescapes.design. Plants were installed in mid-May shortly after shipment. Pine straw was used for mulch to help retain moisture and control weed growth. Due to the heavy pressure from rabbits in this area, metal cages were put around several preferred species.
(“Lawn-to-garden” has been one of the West Chester Green Team’s main themes; see also several of our videos made by Will Claudio, especially Dawn Mazzone interviewed by Courtney Bodle here.)
The Green Team’s community gardening program is well underway. Local residents and families who want to garden but lack their own suitable space are hard at work at three different locations in West Chester Borough.
An important part of it is the Mondays at Melton program for kids; see background here.
We had another wonderful Monday at Melton on June 28! Melinda and her son William read a beautiful book, The Bear’s Garden, and the kids loved making their newspaper pots — many of them even planted them in our garden! 🪴 Thank you so much, Melinda, for your patience, kindness, and amazing teaching skills!
Also, a big thank you to Nora, who helped with everything from leasing the soil station to walking kids to the bathroom, and to Courtney for bringing her kiddos Ollie and Everette to participate in the program. It was a hot but wonderful night for all, with a lot of smiles!
The kids were also so excited to harvest our first ripe cherry tomato of the season! Enjoy the photos!
Self-guided walking tour of West Chester Borough gardens visible from the sidewalk except as noted, June 25 – July 5 from 10 am to sunset daily. See overall info and flyer here.
This free tour includes a scavenger hunt. At each location, a Green Man or Woman is hidden. The Green Man is a legendary being representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring, commonly depicted as a face made of, or completely surrounded by, leaves. Please post a photo of a Green Man that you find on your tour to our Facebook page!
Map and Outline: Southern Route (see full details farther below)
318 W. Union St. – Native plants
324 W. Union St. and Holly Alley – Native plants
409 W. Union St. – Lawn to garden
111 S. Brandywine St. – Food garden
224 W. Barnard St. – Small spaces
119 W. Miner St. – Wildflowers
Map and Outline: Northern Route (see full details farther below)
721 N. Franklin St. – Native plants
700 N. Franklin St. – Community garden (drive in, park in visitor space, walk through gate to the right of the drive and into the garden area in the angle of two buildings)
Marshall St. and Franklin St. – Fountain
501 S. Maryland Ave. – Lawn to garden
323 W. Biddle St. – “Hell strip” (between sidewalk and street)
Additional garden at WCU
750 S. Church St. behind Merion Science Center and Planetarium, also accessible via Rosedale Ave. behind Killinger Hall – Classroom gardens (If you drive, you’ll need to park at a meter on either street and walk in)
This garden has evolved over thirty years. Gail has enjoyed different plantings through the years but in the last ten years she has become a follower of noted native plant advocate Doug Tallamy and has tried to make her small Borough garden a haven for native plants, wildlife and pollinators. Many of the plants are specifically grown for pollinators including the Monarch butterfly. Some of these include a volunteer Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood; Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed; Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed; Eutrochium dubnium ‘Little Joe’ Joe Pye Weed; various asters; Solidago rugosa, Goldenrod; Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, sweet pepper bush; and Lonicera sempervirens, a native honeysuckle which attracts hummingbirds and provides shelter for birds. This yard, both front and back, has been made into gardens while eliminating grass. The owners also enjoy traditional plants such as a collection of David Austin Roses and various Clematis, spring bulbs and seasonal annuals. Feel free to look over the backyard fence (from the alley) as well.
324 W. Union St. and Holly Alley
Gardening is irresistible to me. I love getting my hands in the soil, placing plants in aesthetically pleasing groupings of colors and textures, and choosing plants that are ecologically valuable. Being in my garden brings me a sense of calm and perspective, whether I am weeding, planting, deadheading, or just sitting and noticing. Moving to our home in the Borough about six years ago, I envisioned the small yard as a blank slate and have been happily “painting with plants” ever since.
The front garden contains only herbaceous perennials and bulbs. They are planted on 12-24” centers to cover the 20’ x 30’ rectangle inside the steel fence, where once there was only lawn. (My wonderful husband dug nearly all the planting holes and hauled away the excess soil.) I chose a palette of plants that would provide changing colors, heights, and textures throughout the growing season as well as food and habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies. The idea to create an “urban meadow” came from a garden-designer friend, who referred me to the book The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden by Roy Diblik.
Important tenets of this style of garden include 1) knowing your plants; 2) knowing your garden’s light, soil, and moisture requirements; and 3) positioning the plants in drifts or swaths with occasional accent plants. I sketched out the placement of plants on a piece of graph paper before making any purchases. I leave the plants to die and decay in place at the end of the growing season. Their seed heads and hollow stems provide food and homes for birds and bugs. Once a year in March I cut down the plants to about 6” above the ground and drop the cuttings on the ground between plants. There is no mulching of this garden. Soon spring bulbs emerge and help hide the meadow stubble. Perennials tend to expand their base, and some seed in, so the annual management includes some weeding in spring and occasional, selective removal of plants that grew bigger than I expected. The front garden is only two years old; we sit on the porch, enjoy the view, and watch the garden’s continuing evolution.
The back garden, which can be viewed from our gravel parking pad on Holly Alley, has two zones. There is a dry, shady side, thanks to the large canopy and extensive root system of the neighbor’s Blue Atlas Cedar, and there is a semi-sunny side whose clayey soil tends to hold moisture. When we moved to this property in 2015, every bit of the previous owner’s backyard landscaping had to be removed to provide access for excavation and the construction of the addition at the rear of the house. With the help of friends, those plants were dug up and given away.
Unfortunately, the contractors hauled away the topsoil, and their equipment compacted the remaining subsoil. We have been slowly working to improve the soil ever since. Steadily adding organic matter and loosening the compacted layers have been key. My husband makes compost from our kitchen scraps and some of our yard waste, so long as they don’t contain seeds. We bring home tubs of shredded leaves from large piles collected each fall and left to rot at a nearby cemetery. Some of the leaves go into the compost, and some are used to top dress the soil around the plants. The back garden was not planned and executed like the front garden.
Here I indulge my tendency to collect plants and try new combinations. There are trees, shrubs, perennials, vines, and annuals including a few vegetables. I regularly “edit” this garden, moving plants around and making space for newcomers.
409 W. Union St.
Jim began taking away bits of lawn 2 years ago, creating a tiny flower and food garden in front of our front porch at our 1876 brick twin house. He grows tomatoes and strawberries, asparagus and kale and his prize plant is an 8-foot tall fig tree that produced 30 figs last summer. This year, Jim removed the bushes on the alley in back of the house and added in blackberry and raspberry bushes. We hope that they grow and produce a fruit snack for people going down the alley to Everhart Park. Plans for next year include removing the remaining small strip of lawn in front of the front garden and adding in more flowers and some herbs. The goal is more of an English country garden feeling, interspersed with vegetables. Jim plans to keep the usable bits of lawn–but only those–and add in native species as possible, without destroying the beloved plants already in our garden.
111 S. Brandywine St.
This garden showcases perennial flowers and edible plants. As you walk along the alley from the street to the fence some of the plants you will see, in order are: blueberries, serviceberry, bee balm, geranium, raised beds with annual vegetables, chives, quince, azalea, rhododendron, fig, bronze fennel, horseradish, bachelor’s buttons and irises.
224 W. Barnard St,.
Built circa 1850, this little gem of a single house boasts a charming front garden planted with a variety of flowers surrounded by an iron fence authentic to the period. This front yard garden, somewhat on the shady side, uses its space well. In the front row: comfrey (with delicate blue flowers leading to attractive seed fronds), spiderwort. Behind the gravel path: iris, various hostas, hydrangea in the middle, lily of the valley, Japanese fern. Pots include chrysanthemums. On the right side against the fence: the purple-leaved heuchera, petunia, salvia, and on the left side are colorful caladiums. The sidewalk too is utilized, with daylilies, petunias, and the less common low-growing succulent portulaca (pink flower, orange middle). A comfortable front porch allows the owner to enjoy the view. A distinctive feature of this house is its Japanese style decorative rain chain on the front porch. The Japanese word for this interesting feature, a series of small vessels linked by chain, is kusari-toi. Such downspouts are in common use in Japan.
119 W. Miner St.
This large sunny garden contains a rich variety of perennials and self-seeding plants. The large selection of plantings includes some less common specimens. Alium, now in its seed phase, is dotted around. At the left back the tall plant preparing to flower is Joe Pye weed (eupatorium). The reddish leaf with pink flowers is penstemon. Various euphorbias, salvias (with a range of flower hues) and grasses add accents. Asters, artemisia and thistles are not yet blooming. Sedum is recognizable with its succulent leaf, and a yucca is nearing the flower stage. The slender foot-high stems with purplish flowers are verbena. Scattered throughout are a number of epimedium plants. The tall large-leaved plant about to bloom in yellow is likely rudbeckia maxima; the bright purple flower clumped like small bottle brushes is liatris. With many other specimens to challenge your identification skills, this garden makes a striking statement and is a good exemplar of the principle, dear to some gardeners, that where flowers are closely set enough, weeds cannot get a foothold.
721 N. Franklin St.
Michele moved into this home in October 2019. The entire property had only 2 Japanese trees (since removed) and lawn covered in turf grass. The previous owners don’t appear to have used fertilizers or chemicals, and the soil was healthy with a profusion of wild violets interspersed with turf grass, clover and the usual weeds. Over the last 18 months, more than 1500sf of lawn has been converted to native plant gardens – all sides of the driveway, 3 sides of the house, a large area along the street in front, and a similar area in the back, fenced yard for beneficial trees and pollinator plants. Over 275 native species have been planted, including white oaks, native hydrangeas, persimmon tree, serviceberry trees, edible viburnums (nannyberry) and numerous other shrubs, grasses and herbaceous plants to increase biodiversity. The goal is no invasive, non-native ornamentals and 99% natives so we are providing hosts, habitat and food for our insects and birds in an effort to restore these declining populations. The front yard roadside was most recently planted, where mature shrubs and trees will create a dense buffer for wildlife and privacy in the coming years.
700 N. Franklin St.
(If you drive: turn west from Franklin St., park in a visitor space, walk through the gate to the right of the main drive and along the building into the garden area in the angle of two buildings)
For Barclay Friends Assisted Living Facility, located at 700 N Franklin Street in West Chester, gardening is an important way that staff works to cultivate positive experiences for the residents in their care. Using resources from their many on-site vegetable and flower gardens, the staff at Barclay Friends routinely facilitates cooking tutorials, flower-arranging classes, and horticulture lessons for their facility members. This summer, in collaboration with the West Chester Green Team, Barclay Friends has generously expanded their garden offerings to reach the broader West Chester community. Eight brand new raised beds were added to Sydney’s Garden, which has allowed eight West Chester families to grow alongside Barclay Friends staff. Community gardening work is underway, and gardeners are eager to harvest bounties of peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, and more to share with family and neighbors. To learn more about how Barclay Friends uses gardening to further their Quaker values, visit their website.
The original iron fence surrounding the fountain was copied and re-built to protect the public and to surround the fountain, using the original iron acorns as finials. The area around the fountain includes new benches (available for purchase and dedication) set within the landscaping. The new plantings are intended to remain low, as to not block views to the fountain and to provide seasonal color. The fountain garden includes native flowering trees, low maintenance shrubs, perennials, ground covers and bulbs. The plantings include; Serviceberry (Amelanchiar canadensis), Viburnum carlessi (Koreanspice Viburnum), Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’, Daylilies, Native Geranium, Stachys, Sedum, Liriope, Iris siberica ‘Ceasar’s Brother’, Allium ‘Globemaster’ and ‘Thalia’ Daffodils. The iron bollards at the curb discourage wayward vehicles and the brick landing is surrounding by iron garden fencing with the same plants that are repeated in the fountain area.
501 S. Maryland Ave.
West Chester Transition Team’s Living Landscapes Committee created a publicly accessible native pollinator garden located in the 500 block of South Maryland Ave in West Chester Borough to showcase this technique and educate the public on the benefits. Accessible from the sidewalk, the new 200 square foot native pollinator garden will provide nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and food for caterpillars. Native plants have evolved to act as hosts to our native insects and therefore provide a highly valuable resource that cannot be provided by non-natives.
Before planting the area with a mix of native grasses and perennials, the turf grass had to be removed first. To do this, the committee chose to use the technique commonly known as smothering or tarping, also called solarization or occultation. Thick black plastic sheeting was laid down on the area in mid-March and stayed in place for five weeks. Next the plastic was removed, and the area was exposed to sunlight and precipitation for two weeks. Finally, the plastic was re-laid over the area for a final one-two week period to kill any remaining weeds and grass.
When the tarp was removed, the dead material was raked up, which also helped prepare the surface for planting. The plants used for this bed were purchased from an online nursery that provides small 4”-plugs consisting of over 13 different native species assembled in a pre-assembled “pollinator garden.” Two pollinator garden trays, totaling 100 plugs of 14 different native species, were purchased in February. The goal for this site was to plant the area densely for maximum first-season growth and success.
323 W. Biddle St.
We were so frustrated with the unsightly look of the “hell strip” between our sidewalk and the parked cars. Weeds would creep from there into the sidewalk bricks constantly, which was time-consuming to keep under control. Last fall we decided to just rip out the entire strip along our long property line. Instead we filled it with free wood chips and added drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly plants. From bulbs in the spring to bee balm for the summer and asters in the fall – it will provide blooms for most of the growing season. Flagstones were added as stepping stones for passengers stepping out of the cars. I hope it will bring joy to the neighbors and passers-by as well as our bees and butterflies.
Additional garden at WCU
750 S. Church St. Behind Merion Science Center and Planetarium, also accessible via Rosedale Ave. behind Killinger Hall (if you drive, you’ll need to park at a meter on either street and walk into the campus)
Native Plant Outdoor Classroom & Organic Annual Garden: Dedicated on April 21st, 2009, the North Campus learning garden was designed to engage students, faculty and guests in appreciating the native plant and wildlife of Chester County. Plantings such as red chokeberry, Joe Pye weed, hyssop, berry bushes, and many others draw in songbirds (and squirrels) to the feeder watch site. Art classes use the area for inspiration and environmental studies students are often there as well.
The outdoor classroom was expanded to include a vegetable and herb garden managed by faculty, staff, student interns, and volunteers. The beds are planted annually with seeds and seedlings provided by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society City Harvest program thanks to Dr. Ashlie Delshad. Amendments include compost from the garden compost system, and organic mushroom spent soil.
There are two permaculture (permanent agriculture) plots. One is a small native plant woodland with edible plants such as the Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier canadensis) and wild ramps (Allium tricoccum). The other is planted with fruit trees and sun chokes that are perennial. The herb spiral is in this plot.
Click here for documentation about creation of outdoor classroom with plant list
Transition Town Port Washington (on the northern shore of Long Island NY) is hard at work educating its community and collaborating with like-minded organizations to carry out so many things that we too believe in: climate action as a member of Communities United to Reduce Emissions 100% (CURE); plastics reduction (with a recent very informative article on “Plastics: The Everlasting Epidemic“; divesting from fossil fuel investments (which the the $226 billion NY state pension fund is actually doing); and much more. We thank them for the inspiration!
West Chester Area Transition, the latest initiative of the WC Green Team, is now fully functional, with regular meetings, three programs underway, and two more in the planning.
In January 2021, a group of Green Team leaders and friends engaged in a brainstorming activity following the guidelines of the international Transition movement, which asks: “What does your town need?” Out of this activity came fice ideas which were discussed and narrowed down to three for 2021.
First, we decided that the community needed more community gardens and now we have added three. We have been working with Barclay Friends, the Lockard family and the Melton Center on this project, whose coordinators are Elizabeth Schultz, Nathaniel Smith and Ashlie Delshad.
As part of this outreach, the Green Team asked two of our hosts, Barclay Friends and the Melton Center: “What can we do for you?” At Barclay we are teaching gardening skills to the staff, growing herbs to be used in the residents’ dining hall, and providing a concert in the garden for residents and gardeners and their families, with local favorite Stephanie Markstein performing there on August 14.
At the Melton Center, we agreed to provide children’s programming and are now busy getting all the details in place for eight evening events. The series begins on Monday, June 21, with a planting activity led Elizabeth Schultz, our summer intern. Subsequent programs will include a folk tale about peaches from Japan, one on how pumpkins grow, another on beneficial insects, and finally an ice cream party–with no-dairy options–along with stories from New Zealand.
Another Transition initiative is Living Landscapes, in which a team led by Courtney Finneran is piloting removing grass and planting pollinators.
Our other current initiative is cutting down on plastics. Another of Prof. Schraedley’s communications classes reached out to about 60 restaurants and businesses in the Borough and about plastics reduction in the context of the Borough’s Sustainable Storefronts initiative (see more details and update here).
If you would like to volunteer to help out in any of these programs, or would like to donate to these good causes, please contact Margaret at email@example.com.
Have you seen our Transition sign in yards yet? It shows many colored hands with blossoming flowers and the words “Rising to the Challenges of Our Time.” The beautiful image was created by Transition US and happily shared with us. This sign was unveiled on Earth Day at West Chester University by Mayor Jordan Norley and his wife Rani. WCU representatives in attendance included Director of Sustainability Brad Flamm, and Prof Megan Schraedley. In addition, Nathaniel Smith represented the GT. Dr. Schradley and West Chester GT activist and Tree Team head Courtney Finneran were recognized for their environmental leadership and presented the keys to the Borough by Mayor Norley.
See the text of Rani Norley’s well-received unveiling speech to explain the sign along with other Earth Day info and images here.
Did you know that nearby Media and Phoenixville are Transition Towns? Transition began in England in 2009. The motivating idea was that the world is moving beyond fossils fuels and needs to work on resilience, solidarity, and mutual support in our communities. The terms transition town, transition initiative and transitionmodel refer to grassroots community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. Transition is specific to the needs of each community. Media has a free store housed in a Methodist Church where people can drop off unwanted items and pick up what they need. A donation box brings in enough money to cover the utilities, and everyone is happy with it. Media also sponsors many celebrations designed to foster community and bring the town together–such as Winter Solstice celebrations.
Phoenixville already had a work barter system (a common Transition idea), so has sponsored pop-up repair cafes where they serve coffee, repair items, and teach repair skills. Central to Transition thinking is zero waste and teaching skills. Transition in Phoenixville works in parallel with their Green Team.
In West Chester, when we brought up adding in Transition thinking to our Green Team work, the idea arose of a free store–but many felt that Buy Nothing West Chester is already doing a good job with that (if your family is not already a member, we suggest you look into joining on Facebook). We looked into housing the store at the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship on West Gay St,. but they are now closed because of the pandemic, so we put that idea on hold.
Another idea was to sponsor a community-wide festival–maybe around Earth Day. Paula Kline suggested front porch music–as she was involved with such a festival in New Haven CT. Everybody loved this image for West Chester’s front porches. We brainstormed ideas and reached out to a couple of locations. Rev. Dan Schatz of Unitarian Congregation, a musician in the Appalachian mountain tradition–and a very good one–suggested that this April is too soon to do such a festival. And so, the consensus was to postpone it. We are looking to offer it in April of ’22 and already have support from 3 Borough locations. We hope to offer it all around the town and involve graphic art and drama as well as music.
So the festival idea is on hold till next year, though this year’s Earth Day included an initial step, with people viewing sidewalk chalk art in town and recycled art on the terrace at the Chester County History Center, thanks to students in one of Prof. Megan Schraedley’s classes.
For programs we launched in 2021, see above. For our earlier planning phase, see here.
Earth Day in West Chester Borough was a resounding success for the Green Team. This year the WCGT partnered with West Chester University Assistant Professor of Communication Megan Schraedley and her class of organizational communication students. This partnership resulted in a dynamic Art Festival and Stroll event, spreading the word about Earth Day and sustainability in the Borough. Dr. Schraedley and her students helped plan the Earth Day Art Festival & Stroll which took place on April 22nd throughout the Borough.
This event had two parts. The first part showcased sustainable art pieces digitally on our Instagram page and in-person at the Chester County Historical Center. The second part featured an in-person sidewalk chalking event along High Street. At the CCHC, local students and artists created several nature-themed art pieces for display. These pieces used natural and upcycled materials such as plastic water bottles, found wood, clay, and cardboard to bring public awareness to nature’s beauty as well as how to find other uses for single-use materials. Please check out our Instagram page, @wc_green_team, to see these works of art.
In addition, the WCU students marketed and planned a successful sidewalk chalking event that took place on April 22nd along High Street. Families, schoolchildren, college students, business owners, and other local organizations came together to participate in this community event.
In total, we estimated over 100 people came out to support Earth Day and the WCGT, including the mayor of the Borough, Jordan Norley, who publicly recognized the West Chester Green Team’s sustainability work by presenting us with the keys to the city. The WCGT unveiled our new Transition sign (check out more info about Transition here) and Mayor Norley spoke highly of the work the WCGT is doing to improve quality of life in the Borough.
For more info and images of Earth Day, including noteworthy remarks by Rani Norley, see here.
This spring, the West Chester Green Team informed businesses in the Borough about how to acquire a Sustainable Storefronts certification, available through the Borough’s Sustainability Advisory Council. This voluntary certification available for retail businesses and restaurants is an important step towards eliminating single-use plastics in the Borough.
To tackle this issue, the WCGT partnered with Megan Schraedley, an Assistant Professor of Communication at WCU, and one of her organizational communication classes to contact local businesses. Together, we contacted dozens of businesses in the Borough and spoke with them about sustainability and the Sustainable Storefronts program. From these conversations, we helped the following local businesses become Sustainable Storefronts certified: Dia Doce, Meatball U, Bryn Mawr Running Co., Dolce Zola, 5 Senses, and Hop Fidelity.
Many thanks to these businesses for jumping on board with sustainability and joining the Sustainable Storefronts program! They are leaders for the future of the community. Be sure to thank them for joining the next time you visit any of these establishments. You can see other businesses who have joined at the Borough’s site.
Later this year, we hope to recognize these businesses for joining the Sustainable Storefronts program, so please be on the lookout for more information.
See also the Plastic-Free Please Facebook page here.
This is our joint summer program with the Melton Center for children age 5-10 affiliated with our community gardening program or the Melton Center or just interested in exciting and educational Monday evening activities. 7pm, Mondays, June 21 – August 9. More info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s what our June 21 activity with Elizabeth Schultz will look like (a few days after the cress seeds are planted in decorated pots; for our detailed instructions on making your own, see here):
by Alexa Manning at West Chester Green Team rally, June 12, 2021 (for prospective spray locations, see here)
Recently, it has come to our attention that the PA Dept of Agriculture plans to spray the active ingredient Bifenthrin (product name Talstar Professional Insecticide) for the spotted lantern fly (SLF) on thirteen locations in Chester County.
Bifenthrin is a broad-spectrum pyrethroid insecticide that kills insects indiscriminately, including beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators. This pesticide was registered for use by the EPA in 1985, is in more than 600 products in the U.S. and is classified by the EPA as a possible carcinogen. It interferes with the nervous system of insects that eat it, touch it, or breathe it in. Bifenthrin binds to the soil and has the potential to contaminate surface waters through runoff. It is highly toxic to insects and aquatic organisms such as fish and arthropods. Though toxicity is lower to birds and mammals exposed directly to it, there are potential risks if they eat aquatic organisms because bifenthrin can accumulate in fish and last a long time in the environment.
Information provided to us from the PA Dept of Ag states that they and the USDA continue to support research into biological and other control methods for the SLF. They follow the principles of integrated pest management (IPM) using cultural, mechanical, biologic and targeted chemical treatment techniques available including implementing a quarantine to limit SLF spread, the use of traps, reduction of the favorite host Tree of Heaven, and application of a systemic insecticide to it. These efforts have slowed the spread of the SLF since it was discovered in Berks County in 2014; however, since then the SLF range has expanded significantly.
The decision was made to add this new contact spray into the IPM program this year. Spraying will occur between June and October on properties exhibiting a high risk of enabling long-distance spread of the insect and tend to be on habitats that are highly degraded such as near rail hubs, airports, and industrial centers, with the permission of the property owner/land manager. No set treatment dates are established yet. People listed on the Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and beekeepers will be notified in advance of spraying.
With the assistance of state representatives and their staff we are waiting to obtain more information from the Dept of Ag about the following questions about this spraying program.
• How far in advance will individuals on the Pesticide Hypersensitivity registry be notified? Will the public be notified in advance?
• What is the notification process and responsibilities of local, county, and state government and private property owners to the public regarding the spraying schedule in advance, at the time, and afterwards?
• Will public signs be posted and what are the other ways notification will take place?
• Who is paying for the spraying?
• Where and how were these specific locations identified and decided upon?
• Where else in PA is the spraying program happening?
• Is there a public comment period?
• What is the current research that states that a pesticide (and this specific one) will be effective in stopping the spread of SLF? If so, where and when did the research and any trials take place?
• If the spraying is targeted to specific locations, how will the effects be monitored and analyzed and for what length of time?
• Have the public and environmental health effects of spraying bifenthrin as well any other pesticides been documented and reported?
• In municipal locations, are schools and public property such as parks and open space affected? Which municipalities have approved this spraying?
These are some of the questions that need to be addressed by the government. Other concerns are welcome.
I would like to share that I am listed on the PA Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry for health reasons. The law requires the people on the registry are to be notified by government and private entities of pesticide applications within 500 feet of one’s property at least one day in advance. In April 2020 we had the unfortunate experience when our entire property (we don’t use pesticides or fertilizers and grown organic plants for food and pollinators) was broadcast sprayed with a chemical mixture of pesticides and fertilizers by a chemical lawn service company. The employee who sprayed did not check the address and did not confirm with the customer next door where this service was contracted. I was not notified by the company in advance of the next-door neighbor’s spraying. Any of these measures could have prevented this from happening.
After I contacted the company and the Dept of Ag, the region Field Pesticide officer contacted me and investigated this incident. We received compensation from the company to rebuild vegetable raised beds, and some of the impacted treated soil in our pollinator gardens. There is the concern that there is pesticide residue in the soil. We would like to have a yard where what we grow and eat is healthy and safe. I hope this never happens again.
Since March, I have received 40 notifications from several chemical lawn treatment companies that regularly service residential properties near us. Unfortunately, there are other companies who have not notified me as is required by law. Then I follow up with them and the Dept of Ag.
Another concern is that companies who apply pesticides are not required by the state to post a sign that an area has been treated. This is only a courtesy. There are many times that I have walked near or on a border of a property that was recently sprayed as was the case when I walked across our front lawn the day we were sprayed in error. This is concerning for everyone, especially people on the registry, children and pets on public parks and private properties. This is the least that we can do: signs need to be posted on public property in advance with the time of application, the name of the pesticide and/or fertilizer, and when it is safe to go on the area.
Pennsylvania needs to allow local and country governments the right to enact and enforce ordinances and regulations to ban or restrict the use of pesticides and fertilizers. State preemption is antithetical to local rule and denies citizens their rights for the public good. This applies to many other issues.
These issues need to be addressed. Please contact your state representatives and the PA Dept of Agriculture now for answers to concerns about SLF spraying, notifications and related issues that prevent local and county governments from making direct decisions.
There are many harmful environmental and health concerns regarding the ubiquitous use of pesticides and fertilizers on land, air, and water in residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial locations. Since the 1950s their use is widespread and commonplace with tremendous ramifications to our health and safety. There are safe, proven alternatives and many resources available. This is a critical environmental issue that affects all of us. We need to take appropriate actions to protect our health and safety. Thank you for concern and for your advocacy.