Willamalane’s Dorris ranch could change pesticide use in hazelnut orchards

The historic hazelnut orchards at Dorris Ranch may soon be treated for pests and diseases with organic practices instead of commercial grade pesticides on the recommendation of a committee formed to help the park operator keep visitors and visitors safe. nearby residents.

Willamalane Parks and Recreation District, which manages the historic park, formed the committee after some community members raised concerns with Willamalane’s board of directors this summer about pesticides being used to maintain commercial hazelnut orchards.

The committee’s recommendations were presented to the board on Wednesday. The board of directors will eventually vote on whether and how to modify its current uses of pesticides.

The Dorris Ranch Orchard ad hoc committee, which includes representatives from the park district, the nonprofit Beyond Toxics and agricultural experts, proposed three plans the council could follow to reduce exposure to pesticides in the park. Each option calls for a shift to organic farming practices varying within the recommended pace of change.

“We wanted to make sure the park is safe for kids, especially because they sponsor many educational events and market the park for it, while also recognizing its importance to wildlife pollinators, and especially because of its proximity to the river and its role in maintaining water quality, ”said Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics, who sits on the committee.

Arkin also pointed out that organic practices would be safer for people living near the park.

The Willamalane Park and Recreation District has been fighting hazel blight at Dorris Ranch in Springfield for several years.

Dorris Ranch maintains 9,250 planted hazel trees on 75 acres in Springfield, according to Willamalane. These trees produce a crop that the park district sells to offset its expenses.

But trees are susceptible to pests and diseases, which is why Willamalane treated orchards with commercial grade pesticides.

Willamalane spokesperson Kenny Weigandt said public reactions to the use of these pesticides became a problem over the summer.

Previous coverage:Use of commercial grade pesticides in Willamalane’s Dorris Ranch orchards in Springfield under surveillance

Beyond Toxics took samples from a home vegetable patch near the park after a contractor from Willamalane sprayed pesticides in August. The association reported that its samples contained traces of a pesticide used in the orchards of Dorris Ranch.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture was on hand to monitor this pesticide application in August, but found no traces in samples taken in the mandatory spray buffer zone. ODA returned a month later to test the residence for chemical traces, but found none.

At a board working session on Wednesday, the committee presented its advice after several months of meetings on how Willamalane should manage orchards in the future so that they can remain commercially viable and safer for their entourage.

The committee met seven times before presenting the recommendations.

A visitor to Dorris Ranch in Springfield walks her dog past a hazelnut orchard in the park.

The committee’s recommendations included three plans:

Plan 1: Preferred option by the committee, the entire orchard would immediately switch to organic practices with the aim of obtaining organic certification within three years. This option excludes “organic negligent” management, which would eliminate the use of potentially hazardous chemicals and essentially let filberts live or die on their own.

Plan 2: The district’s current contract would be amended to eliminate the use of Class 1 and 2 pesticides, eliminating pesticides toxic to aquatic organisms, those that can affect human health, and those that persist in ground and surface water. Scheduled sprays would be adjusted to minimize damage to pollinators. The district would implement “integrated pest management” practices, such as cultural, biological and mechanical pest management.

Over the next two years, Plan 2 calls for the adoption of organic practices. Over the next three years, the district will adopt approved methods for organic production.

Plan 3: The orchard will switch to the organic management practices described in plan 2, but the Barcelona variety “Road Orchard” would be excluded. The plan excludes this variety, which was the first planted in the orchard, to protect the historic character of the site.

The future of the park:Willamalane Seeks Public Opinion On Master Plan For The Future Of Springfield Park

In Wednesday’s working session, the board appeared to favor Plan 2, but asked district staff to come back with more information on costs and whether their current orchard can comply with the plan’s provisions. .

The board will meet on Wednesday, December 8 and plan to discuss further the future of pesticide use, but may not make the final decision at the meeting.

The district also plans toupdate the way it communicates with nearby residents and guests about pesticide use, said Weigandt, who educates guests and residents about pesticide spraying, as per the committee’s recommendations.

Contact reporter Adam Duvernay at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @DuvernayOR.

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