GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Grand Rapids plans this spring to stop using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers at two of its riverside parks in an effort to reduce chemical runoff and make a cleaner Grand River.
The change is coming to Sixth Street and Canal parks along Monroe Avenue north of I-196, and the city will work with Midwest Grows Green, a nonprofit sustainable landscaping initiative, to implement the natural lawn care.
“Restoration work along the Grand River, including this pesticide-free transition at Sixth Street and Canal Parks, showcases the work we’re committed to — ensuring that we have this beautiful, clean river running through the heart of our city for generations to come,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.
Grand Rapids officials say the city will continue using synthetic pesticides at its largest park along the Grand River, Riverside Park, as well as Ah-Nab-Awen Park. Synthetic fertilizers are used on the sports fields at Riverside Park.
Parks officials say the success of the pilot at Sixth Street and Canal could lead to all parks going synthetic pesticide and fertilizer free.
“We are seeing good success with this pilot program,” said David Marquardt, the city’s Parks and Recreation director. “If success continues with these added locations, we intend to discontinue the use of synthetic treatments across the entire park system. It is worth noting that it is primarily only a few athletic fields and key locations still receiving traditional synthetic treatments.”
Grand Rapids officials hope the move away from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers will motivate other landowners near the Grand River to limit their use of the chemicals.
The reduction in pollution will benefit large-scale city initiatives like the River For All project, which intends to strengthen recreational and development opportunities along the river.
Marquardt sewer improvements and green infrastructure installations, like rain gardens, have improved the water quality of the Grand River.
The city regularly monitors the Grand River, and has done so for more than 40 years.
Over the past decade, Grand River water quality has maintained a score between the low 70s and low 80s on a Water Quality Index index score of 1 to 100. Scores of 70 or higher are considered good water quality, according to the city.