Metro Parks Tacoma

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Pesticide-Free Parks Program

undefinedPesticide-Free Parks Program

Metro Parks Tacoma cares for more than 2,800 acres of developed parks and natural areas. Over the past 20 years, we have steadily reduced pesticide use. In the early 1990’s, Metro Parks adopted the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) philosophy.

We currently have 10 pesticide-free parks located in Tacoma and parts of Pierce County:  

  • Dash Point Park and Pier
  • Jerry Meeker Memorial
  • Lincoln Heights Park
  • Lots for Tots
  • McCarver Park
  • Old Town Park
  • Puget Park
  • Rogers Park
  • Sawyer Park
  • Titlow  Park (landscaped areas)


What is a pesticide-free park?
A pesticide-free park is one that is maintained without the use of registered pesticides. If it becomes necessary to apply pesticides at a pesticide-free park, the site will be clearly posted before, during and after the application to notify users.

What makes a successful pesticide-free park?
The most successful pesticide-free parks are easy to maintain. Small parks with few, small, or no landscape beds look good without much pesticide use. Large community parks, those with lots of landscaping, and older parks with outdated designs require high levels of care to keep looking good. In these cases, pesticides are used more frequently to maintain attractive parks on tight budgets.

How are pesticide-free parks different? 
Some areas that are difficult to maintain large shrub beds, fence lines and spaces beneath trees may look less manicured and more natural than at other parks. Metro Parks Tacoma will continue to make all parks inviting and safe for all visitors.

In the early 1990’s, Metro Parks adopted the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) philosophy.

That means we carefully:

  • Set thresholds for weeds
  • Monitor weed growth
  • Choose the most effective and least toxic method for control when weed populations increases beyond thresholds
  • Track our results.

Our employees effectively:

  • Maintain parks while minimizing pesticide use
  • Set aside sensitive areas where pesticides are restricted
  • Improved park designs to limit future need for pesticides
  • Identified parks where pesticides aren’t needed at all.

Although pesticide use has been greatly reduced, pesticides are used when necessary to manage noxious and invasive weeds as well as pest infestations near higher-use areas. In these instances, pesticides reduce invasive, non-native weeds to allow diverse, native habitat to establish and thrive, and maintain the clean appearance of parks. Each park operations employee maintains more than 50 acres, so pesticides are occasionally used as a cost-effective method to care for parks and open spaces.

Pesticide-free maintenance
To reduce the need for pesticides, Metro Parks uses mechanical techniques. We mow, mulch, seal cracks in paving, and weed by hand. We identify specific weed species and know which control methods are the most effective on each. Because weeding and mulching are more labor intensive and expensive, we often enlist youth crews, jail crews, and volunteers to help with large weed management jobs. To volunteer, please contact Richard Madison at richardm@tacomaparks.com.

Park maintenance staff do not routinely apply pesticides. Supervisors review each application. We carefully choose the chemicals that are the least toxic to the environment and most appropriate for particular pests. If pesticides are necessary, they are applied by experienced, state-licensed applicators.

Pesticide-free design
Park designs influence our approach to weed management. Park planners and designers have been working closely with maintenance staff to design maintenance-friendly parks that reduce the need to manage weeds. With a limited number of employees, it is difficult to control weeds in landscape beds, along fences and at the bases of trees without using pesticides. So park designs are changing. We have fewer landscape beds than in the past. We use recycled, wood-chip mulch to suppress weeds around trees. We fill shrub beds with aggressive, low-maintenance and native plants that spread and cover bare spots. To control weeds beneath fences, we put in concrete. Because weeds don’t harm players, we seldom use pesticides to manage turf in recreational parks.

Comments/Questions?
Please contact the Community and Neighborhood Parks Manager: JoeyF@tacomaparks.com
(253) 305-1051