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A Greener Grass
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera


A movement is afoot in Del Mar – or more accurately under foot -- to convince the City to reconsider how it treats its turf. A “Committee for a Green Del Mar” has formed to create a safer and more water-wise maintenance program for Del Mar’s green spaces. Spearheaded by Del Mar resident Gale Darling, a group of interested citizens gathered recently to air their concerns to Del Mar Councilman Terry Sinott, a liaison to the City’s Parks and Recreations Committee.

Over six years ago Darling was propelled into action when her dog became seriously ill after romping in the recently treated grass at Del Mar’s Shores property. Herself a garden designer, she conveyed her dismay to the Public Works Department about use of synthetic fertilizers and toxic herbicides in treating the City’s grass fields. She promoted the use of natural fertilizer (organic composted soil) as the preferred alternative to create a safer environment for the children, adults and their pets that use the area for recreation. About a year ago, the City’s Public Works department did try this type of natural fertilizer on the field, but according to Darling did not apply it as recommended, evenly in a thin, quarter inch layer with a roller/spreader onto newly aerated grass and watered down. Instead the fertilizer was dumped with a Bobcat onto the field in scattered piles and later erratically raked into the grass. This misapplication caused complaints of undesirable odors wafting into the adjacent Del Mar Inn. In subsequent communication with Public Works and the Parks and Recreations Committee, Darling again requested that only natural fertilizer be used and applied in the recommended manner. The Committee concurred that this would be the proper course to take.

In August the Public Works Department announced that the Shores field would be closed for two weeks for the purpose of restoration. Darling along with other involved citizens decided that it would be informative to have the soil independently analyzed prior to the closing to get a baseline of its condition. The analysis showed a healthy soil with a high level of organic matter and low salt concentrations. In October they commissioned another independent soil analysis. This time the analysis showed much higher salt concentrations (sodium, phosphorus, and sulfates), indicating that the City had reverted to the use of inorganic fertilizers on the field.

These data and their implications prompted Darling to call a meeting of interested Shores field users to express their concerns to Councilmember Terry Sinnott. Over a dozen people gathered at her house in early November to discuss the situation and seek guidance in convincing the City to change its policies. Much discussion centered on the long term benefits of natural turf fertilization and the destructive effects of inorganic chemical and pesticide use. Darling explained that while in the short term natural fertilizer may be more expensive to apply, the appropriate application over the longer term would improve the soil and make for a more sustainable, healthier grass field that requires less water use and fertilization. She handed out a list of other cities and schools in the area that already use such methods.

Councilmember Sinnott and former mayor Richard Earnest, also present, suggested that the group produce a white paper delineating the rationale for the city to change its maintenance policy to the use of natural fertilizers and weed control. Sinnott counseled that with the appropriate information a resolution could then be put on the City Council agenda for action.

Those present along with other concerned Del Mar citizens, have formed the Committee for a Green Del Mar to follow up and push for a greener and healthier approach to our park maintenance. At this writing the suggested white paper is in preparation.


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