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It’s a great time of year in Castle Rock for a hike or bike ride. The wildflowers, or “weeds” as identified by some, are stunning this year and can be enjoyed along the Plum Creek bike trail or any of the Open Space areas of our community. Just last week I was enjoying a bike ride on the Plum Creek trail when I came upon a City of Castle Rock vehicle spraying liquid at the plants between the trail and Plum Creek. I stopped and asked him what he was spraying. He responded, “Weed killer. They get out of control.” . I asked if he had posted any signs to indicate that he was using an herbicide and he responded, “No.”. Down the trail, a little further, I observed a group of children exploring the creek, splashing in the water and picking some flowers (weeds) along the trail.

Castle Rock currently uses 2-4D to control (kill) the weeds on city property. They use this on the park grasses and apparently, also on the Open Space of the Plum Creek Trail. This is standard procedure according to city officials. I have presented my concerns regarding local pesticide controls to Town Council on three occasions. According to Castle Rock’s new city manager, Mr. David Corliss, “Town Council is not interested in any policy changes concerning pesticide use in Castle Rock.”.

I think it is time to reevaluate the city’s policy on the use of 2-4D, in addition to other toxic pesticides such as neonicotinoids, a pesticide directly linked to the demise of our bee colonies and recently banned in the City of Boulder, and fumitoxin, a fumigant pesticide responsible for killing two young children through indirect inhalation in Utah, and recently used on 150 acres across the street from a school and apartment complex here in Castle Rock. This application of fumitoxin is currently being investigated by the Colorado Department of Agriculture for a possible violation in its proximity to the apartment complex.

Most people are not aware of the hazards that pesticides and herbicides pose to their children. The chemical 2,4-D, commonly used in Castle Rock, has been linked to a number of health hazards, including disruption of hormones and reproductive functions, and elevated risk of Parkinson’s disease and cancer. This toxic pesticide contaminates our air and water and finds its way into our homes where it poses a higher risk to children. Dramatic increases in learning disabilities, ADHD, and Autism have been linked to increased exposure to pesticides over the past thirty years. As a school psychologist, I have witnessed this increase in my profession first hand.

Do we really need weed control along open space trails that border our creeks? Are we comfortable with poisonous gasses used in close proximity to our residences? Does Castle Rock have an interest in protecting those insects responsible for pollination and ultimately protecting our food supply? The negative impact these toxins have on our wildlife, and more importantly, the health risk this places on those families who happen to live near, or play on, chemically treated properties is intolerable in my opinion. If you would like to see changes in the city’s current pesticide policy, please contact Suzi Hackett at Douglas County Wildlife Conservancy (info@dcwildlife.org or suzihackett@me.com)

Dr. Suzanne Hackett is a resident of the Meadows and a school psychologist for a Douglas County charter school.