Council extends chemical free park maintenance trial

Baw Baw Shire Council has extended its chemical free park maintenance trial for another 12 months across three parks.

Originally the 12-month trial took place from April 2019 to April 2020 at Warragul’s Queen Street Park, Trafalgar’s McGregor Park and Drouin’s Alex Goudie Reserve to better understand maintenance costs and service level standards between chemical and chemical free maintenance practices.

Alternative weed control methods trialled include manual processes, weed steaming, flame control and organic products such as pine oil and vinegar concentrates.

The trial extension will take place from 1 June 2020 to 1 June 2021 at the same parks in Warragul and Trafalgar, however Drouin’s Alex Goudie Reserve will be substituted for Hearn Street Park as it is more comparable in size and maintenance requirements to the other parks.

Original 12-month trial outcomes

Outcomes of the original 12-month trial for Queen Street Park in Warragul and McGregor Park in Trafalgar showed an approximate 25 per cent increase in labour required to maintain weeds and unwanted grass growth at acceptable levels without the use of chemicals. On average, labour hours increased by less than one hour per week at these locations.

However, at the significantly larger 4.9 hectare Alex Goudie Reserve in Drouin, the trial had a greater impact to service levels, especially within the native planting areas adjacent to the lake and steep slope areas above the garden beds. During the trial, the reserve required a 50 per cent increase in labour (additional 16 hours per month) to maintain acceptable maintenance service levels without the use of chemicals.

A full evaluation of data collected throughout the original 12-month trial is available in the Council Meeting Agenda.

12-month trial extension

A further 12-month trial extension will give Council clearer data to better understand long-term cost differences and the standards of maintenance achievable by omitting chemicals from weed control practices in designated townships across the Shire.

The trial extension will also allow Council to participate in a research project through the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) and Deakin University on the use of glyphosate, with the aim of:

  • Providing comparable safety data,
  • Determining effectiveness of comparable products,
  • Detailing financial implications, and
  • Understanding the potential long-term soil impacts of a range of methods available to manage weeds compared to products that contain glyphosate.

The research project will run throughout 2020 and results will be available in early 2021.

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