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Following a successful program in Longmont, the cities of Lakewood and Golden are introducing organic farming in demonstration parks

Beyond Pesticides works with communities across the country through the nationwide Parks for Sustainable Future program to transition parks, playgrounds and public spaces to ecological land management. (Photo courtesy of New Loveland Mine Park)

WASHINGTON — As Independence Day celebrations across the United States draw to a close, the cities of Lakewood and Golden are opening ecological land management demonstration sites in several city parks as park directors continue their mission to manage beautiful parks and playgrounds with a focus on protecting the environment and public health. Longmont has implemented an ecological program in two parks and is now ready to move forward and expand the program citywide.

The programs are a collaboration between cities and environmental organizations Beyond Pesticides and People and Pollinators Action Network and are sponsored by Natural Grocers®.

Beyond Pesticides is working with communities across the country to transition parks, playgrounds and public spaces to organic land management through the nationwide Parks for Sustainable Future program. The program provides comprehensive training to help community land managers transition two public demonstration sites and equip them with the knowledge needed to eventually transition all public spaces in a community to these safer practices.

The goal of the program is to transition from synthetic weed killers and other potential pesticides to organic practices based on methods and products that support soil biology and soil microbial life. This approach, used in organic farming, naturally produces nutrients for plants, resulting in greater resilience and a reduction in water use. Ben Gratton, Longmont Parks’ Parks, Open Spaces and Trails Division Manager, said, “Instead of using pesticides, Longmont chooses turf grasses with more aggressive rhizomes – underground stems – to crowd out weed seeds and resorts to more frequent core aeration and overseeding to dramatically reduce weed pressure.”

“We are excited to work with the City of Lakewood and the City of Golden on organic land management practices that protect community health and the environment, including bees, butterflies and birds, and support efforts to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss. Organic practices eliminate fossil fuel-based products and sequester atmospheric carbon in the soil, combating the climate crisis.” – Jay Feldman, CEO of Beyond Pesticides.

Lakewood, Colorado

In addition to being the headquarters of Natural Grocers, Lakewood, Colorado is home to 114 parks and 240 miles of trails totaling over 7,400 acres of open space. In collaboration with the City of Lakewood, three park demonstration sites were selected for the program:

  • Link Recreation Center Baseball Field – The site features a 100,000 square foot, high-traffic baseball field that hosts competitive athletic competitions and outdoor recreation programs for youth.
  • The Mountair Dog Park – A former baseball field converted into a dog park in 2024. This 6,000 square foot space was redesigned based on community feedback to serve residents and their four-legged friends in the growing neighborhood.
  • Belmar Traditional Park – One of the “true gems” of the Lakewood Park system, the 4.5 acre open lawn area with natural grassland and trees is regularly used by residents and park visitors.

Jim Haselgren, Park Manager, said, “We are excited to partner with Beyond Pesticides to create organic park areas and complement our existing conservation efforts, converting bluegrass areas to native grasses, maintaining industry-leading water conservation practices, and supporting pollinator pathways within our park system.”

Golden, Colorado

The Parks Department in Golden, Colorado maintains 253 acres of parks within the city limits. Based on grassroots community initiatives led by Laurel Starr, the nonprofit People and Pollinators Action Network, and a group of dedicated citizen volunteers called the “Weedbusters” who are advocating for “pesticide-free” land management in Delong Park, the City of Golden has selected the following three park demonstration sites for the program:

  • DeLong Park – Opening in June 2022, the new location is “intended to be a pilot project for the city’s first organic park. This means… that we use only natural, organic products for all plants and grasses. No synthetic chemicals are used in our maintenance procedures.”
  • New Loveland Mine Park – Completed in 1996, this neighborhood park takes its name from the mining area on which it was built. There is a fully handicap accessible playground surrounded by natural grass.
  • Southridge Park – Built in 1980, the park features a modern playground, two tennis courts, a basketball court, and a large flat area used by local soccer clubs. Southridge Park is an excellent replacement for heavily used sports fields where youth soccer is played 400 to 500 hours per year. According to Golden Parks staff, the site is the “best microcosm of a park that provides everything we need to learn how to implement the strategies of the Beyond Pesticides program.”

Carly Lorentz, Golden’s deputy city manager, states, “We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Beyond Pesticides program. The guidance and training of staff will help us develop maintenance practices and plans that support our commitment to being a leader in our industry, including water conservation and ecological practices.”

“We are thrilled to partner with communities across Colorado who are committed to creating safe places for people, pets and pollinators! It’s inspiring to see our cities leading the way in testing organic turf management, and we’re confident other communities will follow their lead. It’s a great model for how local governments and communities can work together to create safe havens for pollinators.” Joyce Kennedy, Executive Director of People and Pollinators Action Network.

Lifetime sponsorship by Natural Grocers

The Parks for a Sustainable Future program is supported by Natural Grocers, which funds horticultural consulting services, including soil biology testing, development of a plan with recommended practices and materials, and ongoing collaboration with park management staff.

Alan Lewis, Vice President of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs at Natural Grocers, said, “We are pleased that Lakewood and Golden, our two hometowns, are committed to the ecological management of these precious areas that are so important to their citizens. We know from years of experience that park managers will be pleasantly surprised by the naturally weed-free landscapes and the cost savings from reduced water use. Of course, the biggest benefit will be for families with children and pets who will have safer green spaces to play in.”

In addition to Natural Grocers’ five founding principles, “organic” is at the heart of the company. Natural Grocers sells only USDA-certified 100% organic products and has always been active in promoting and protecting the integrity of the organic label. The stores are certified organic grocers, meaning all stores are inspected annually by an organic certification body to ensure they use only organic-approved processes and cleaning products.

This certification, along with the family-run grocer’s commitment to selling only 100% certified organic products, guarantees integrity from the farm to the shopping cart.

Imagine an organic community where local parks, playing fields and green spaces are managed without unnecessary toxic pesticides, children and pets can run safely on the lawn, and bees and other pollinators are protected from toxic chemicals.

This is the future we at Beyond Pesticides envision and work to make a reality.

About Beyond Pesticides:

Beyond Pesticides is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that partners with health and environmental allies using science, policy, and action to lead the transition to a world without toxic pesticides. For more information, visit https://www.beyondpesticides.org/.

About Natural Grocers:

Founded in 1955, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc. (NYSE: NGVC) is a growing specialty retailer of natural and organic foods, personal care products and nutritional supplements. Products sold by Natural Grocers must meet strict quality guidelines and contain no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners, or partially or hydrogenated oils. The company sells only USDA certified organic products and only uses pasture-raised, non-factory-farmed dairy and free-range eggs. The flexible, smaller-store format allows Natural Grocers to offer affordable prices in a customer-friendly, clean and convenient retail environment. The company also offers extensive free, science-based nutrition education programs to help customers make informed health and nutrition decisions. Headquartered in the Union Square neighborhood of Lakewood, Colorado, Natural Grocers has 168 stores in 21 states. For more information and store locations, visit www.naturalgrocers.com.

About the City of Lakewood, Parks, Community Resources Department:

The Department of Community Resources is responsible for providing recreation and leisure activities for the community of Lakewood. Our goal is to provide exceptional facilities and programs that make this city a great place to live.

About City of Golden:

The mission of the Parks and Recreation Department is to promote and provide safe and comprehensive community facilities, programs and services to improve the quality of life for all residents and visitors.

Access to quality park and recreation facilities is a highly valued element of the Golden community. The abundance of natural resources, proximity to the mountains and presence of Clear Creek provide residents and visitors with unique recreational opportunities not found in most communities along the Front Range. The Golden Parks, Recreation and Golf Division is committed to the development of municipal parks, vibrant recreation programs and the preservation of the natural and historic resources of the City of Golden.

— More than pesticides