Tuesday, January 8, 2013

City Spreads Red Death in Park

Speech to the Grants Pass City Council and Staff, 8/6/08

           Last year, I spoke to the City Council, and asked the City to stop spreading finely ground bark, what I call Red Death, on City property, because it leaches natural bark preservatives into the soil and kills all the worms, insects, fungi, and bacteria.  The life of the soil gone, it compacts under the relentless forces of water and gravity, and plants suffer—even the iron plants favored by local landscapers because of their ability to withstand compacted soil.
            Soon afterward, the City began to consider stormwater treatment to meet EPA requirements to keep the river clean after heavy rains.  I went to one of the committee meetings to give my input, which pointed out that surfaces that might be considered permeable becomes considerably less permeable under the influence of Red Death, which is used extensively by local landscapers in new landscaping and old—probably because it is cheap, and since it leaches its preservatives, it decomposes and has to be replaced frequently, giving them a lot of off-season work. 
I did not ask for regulations on landscaping.  I simple asked that the City set a good example, by using larger, more durable barks, such as walk-on-fir or 3/4”; shredded tree clippings; and blow some leaves into the beds, to feed the soil.  Well-fed live soil soaks up a lot more water than compacted dead soil.
            And yet, when I went to the Back to the Fifties concert in Riverside Park, I found fresh Red Death spread all over a bed of shrubs near the main picnic shelter.  And the City has been spreading fresh Red Death around the public parking lots.
            There is a major landscaping project happening right now on Rogue River Highway.  I see settling and percolating swales being constructed, with storm drains to catch the overflow from the pools.  Please make sure that ODOT doesn’t use Red Death in those swales.  Jo Gro would feed the soil and use compost that the City has trouble unloading anyways.  I don’t use the stuff in my work, but is perfectly good for highway landscaping.  It would feed the worms and bring those swales to life, allowing the water to recharge our groundwater instead of polluting the river.
            And please stop using my tax dollars to buy mulch that kills soil.  Spend a little more and use walk-on.  Or spend a lot less and use Jo Gro.

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