In 2015, the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) awarded $10,000 to the Town of Natick’s Land Facilities and Natural Resources (LFNR) team to pilot organic land care practices on three municipal properties. The program, which is called the Healthier Lawns Project, will also support education on organic turf care to residents and local landscaping companies.
Properties participating in the pilot include the Bacon Free Library, Memorial Elementary School soccer field and the new John J. Lane Park. These properties will undergo a complete technical review, in which microscopic soil nutrients, site conditions and playability-factors are analyzed, and will then begin their transition to organic management practices this fall. Natick’s LFNR team will monitor the pilot properties for a period of two years, and will use the data to determine its ability to transition the additional 67 acres of school properties, playing fields and other land managed by the Town.
While the Town of Natick is excited to implement these practices on public properties, it is also eager to share its experience with local homeowners, who often overuse or misuse pesticides on their lawns and then improperly dispose of excess pesticides in the trash or down drains.
As a supplement to the TURI grant, in January 2016, Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington, provided the Town of Natick with funds to train LFNR staff, local lawn care companies, municipal staff and residents on the concepts and techniques to convert to organic. 25 individuals participated in the training, and 90% of participants reported that they are likely or somewhat likely to explore organic, pesticide-free solutions first on the fields, turf or lawns they manage.
Natick residents also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on learning opportunities. Signs with QR codes at the demonstration sites chronicle the progression of the pilot, and all residents were mailed an informational brochure about organic lawn care from the Natick Board of Health.