Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stop Killing Our Soil!

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, 5/6/09.

I noticed, this last weekend, that the City has spread new bark around the public market parking lot.  It appears that it may not be Red Death; its fines appear to be more shredded than finely ground, and might not percolate toxins into the soil. However, I have no experience with that particular grade of bark and cannot be certain of its effects on soil life.  
The City cannot be certain of its effects either, because it has no testing program for mulches that I am aware of.  So far, it has acted only on the unsupported and contradictory words of its landscape contractors and its singular critic.  There are also different staff people in charge of mulching different city projects, if they pay attention to mulch at all.  The City’s actions regarding mulch on City property, therefore, have been inconsistent, arbitrary, and capricious.
I therefore bring before you tonight, on the back side of this speech and in your e-mail, a Resolution Regarding Mulches.  I ask you to put it on your agenda in the near future.
Why should you schedule this for discussion?  Because it desperately needs to be discussed—and debated, if there be any opposition.
I have been trying to start that debate for over 4 years.  I started by passing out “Stop Spreading Red Death!” leaflets at Grower’s Market and to various businesses.  I have spoken repeatedly to the City Council about soil-killing mulch.  I have protested the Courier’s avoidance of the subject on the street.  I talked to the Commissioners about it once—and didn’t need to again, because the County has no money to waste on bark mulch, fine or otherwise.
I’ve heard for several years that the Master Gardeners are now teaching that fine bark kills soil.  But landscape contractors and maintenance people are still spreading it routinely, all over town, as mulch.
My public speeches and writings have impugned the competence of nearly every landscape contractor in town, some by name.  In all this time, no one has risen publicly to say that I am wrong about fine bark killing soil.  I have been told privately that the person suspected it—but he keeps spreading it, because the customers like it.
Putting this Resolution on your agenda would force the landscapers who spread fine bark to come before the Council to defend their practice—or not.  Considering that nobody has yet risen to defend it, they probably won’t; the practice is indefensible.  The only way they have been able to continue the practice for so long is by ignoring any debate about it.
Please put this Resolution on your agenda, and let the debate begin.

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