June 13, 2013

Ogunquit would be first to ban pesticides outright

Residents will decide Tuesday whether to prohibit chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on all local property.

Ogunquit could become the first community in Maine to impose a total ban on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.   

click image to enlarge

The Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, seen Friday, uses environmentally friendly means to tend its gardens. Ogunquit may ban chemical pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides to protect the town's natural resources.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Voters in the coastal community will decide at the polls Tuesday whether an existing ordinance that prohibits the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on town-owned land should be extended to cover private property as well. If they approve it, Ogunquit would join just a handful of communities in the country that have taken such a step.   

So far, there has been little opposition to the proposal, said Michael Horn, chairman of the Ogunquit Conservation Commission. He said the commission reached out to landscapers and lawn service operators to alert them to the proposed ban, but no one showed up to oppose the measure at any of the three public hearings on the matter.   

While some in the pesticide and lawn care industry warn the idea may backfire, Horn said chemical companies didn’t appear to oppose the possible ban, either.   

“We are probably not big enough,” said Horn.   

The 4.5-square-mile town has 1,200 residents, although the number is closer to half that in the winter when the snowbirds have moved back to Florida.   

But some residents say the lack of opposition is due to the town’s strong sense of environmentalism.   

Ogunquit is one of only 25 communities in the state with a pesticide-control ordinance. It also has 11 restaurants and hotels certified as environmental leaders in the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Business Certification Program, more than any other community in the state. The town also has a high municipal recycling rate – 49 percent compared to the 38 percent state average.   

“We are a green community,” said Karen Arel, president of the Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce.    Horn said the town’s unusual demographic profile might be part of the reason it takes pride in being green.   

“Our population is the oldest in the state and Maine is the oldest state in the country,” said Horn.    While health concerns are behind pesticide regulation in many communities, proponents in Ogunquit say the proposed ban is largely aimed at protecting the watershed and water quality in a town where tourism is the major economic sector. During a peak summer weekend, the town’s population surges to as many as 40,000 people, most of whom descend on the town’s 1.5-mile-long beach.   

Allyson Cavaretta, director of sales and marketing for The Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit, which won the Governor’s Environment Excellence Award this year for generating 70 percent of its energy from solar panels and recycling all of its trash, said the business community is very supportive.   

“It would be very hard to find anyone against it. We have a watershed, the beach and a lot of good things to take care of,” said Cavaretta.   

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