Lawns for Lobsters

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					                                                                                                                                           Fall 2009




                                                                                                              Lawns for Lobsters
                                                                                                                      Kennebunkport, Maine

    Home Rules, Home Tools: Locally Led Conservation Achievements
Although Kennebunkport is one of Maine’s             approach to educating people about proper          Next, the Commission sent a letter on town
best-known summer resort communities,                fertilizer and pesticide use. They deliberately    stationery to all the lawn care providers that
it is also a community in which a significant        avoided taking the town ordinance route,           they could identify who worked in
number of residents earn their living from the       feeling that in the end they would get more        Kennebunkport. They enclosed a copy of the
sea, particularly from lobster fishing. Several      support from the community through a               BMPs with a cover letter explaining the rea-
of those lobstermen, including one who also          grassroots educational/awareness campaign.         sons they were promoting them. They also let
serves as a Selectman, were becoming                                                                    the providers know that if they were willing to
increasingly concerned about apparent                The first step in that process was to get the      follow the BMPs [if asked by a customer],
contamination of the waters they fished. The         town to formally adopt a set of Best               their business names would be listed on the
Kennebunkport Conservation Commission                Management Practices [BMPs] for the                town website as a Lawns for Lobsters partner.
(KCC) built on this concern to create a com-         Application of Turf Fertilizers and Pesticides
prehensive, town-wide initiative designed to         developed under the auspices of the Maine          This has proven quite successful, with seven
reduce chemical runoff in area streams, rivers       Board of Pesticides. Their intent was to get       such providers now on that list. Overall, coop-
and coastal waters.                                  official town endorsement of their work early      eration from lawn care companies, both
                                                     on in the project, and full participation by the   organic and non-organic, has been very high,
Water quality has been a concern of the              town in implementing recommended prac-             and one company has become a particularly
commission for a number of years. In addition        tices on town properties. An order to that         strong and effective advocate of the program.
to participating in ongoing water testing for E.     effect was approved by a unanimous vote of         The next challenge was to “market” the pro-
coli and phytoplankton concentrations, the           the Selectmen in November 2008. With the           gram to the community. In May 2009, the
KCC has also sponsored a wide variety of             enthusiastic support of Town Manager Larry         commission got a two-page spread in the
public informational sessions on topics as           Mead and the Planning Board, the town is now       annual town newsletter, a publication seen by
diverse as organic gardening, the Yardscaping        implementing those practices.                      both year-round and summer residents,
program and the proper care and mainte-                                                                 explaining the reasons behind their actions
nance of septic systems. And while these ses-        “I believe that the most practical                 and asking them to follow the BMPs
sions were often well attended, commission           approach to reducing the use of                    [by now they had distilled those BMPs into ten
members didn’t feel they were resulting in the       harmful chemicals on residential                   user friendly steps]. The article also included
kind of collective impact they had hoped for,        lawns is through education and                     a list of questions they suggested residents ask
particularly regarding fertilizer and pesticide      motivation, not regulation.                        any lawn care provider that they might employ.
runoff from lawns and gardens in town. Given
the lobstermen’s interest, they decided to
                                                     People are just more likely to
focus intensively on this issue.                     respond positively to a compelling
                                                     story that they can relate to.
With that decision made, Commission mem-             Linking lawn care to the viability
bers began a thorough investigation of the           of the lobster catch was not just a
whole chemical contamination / water quality         catchy title, it was a concept that
issue. Gary Fish, Director of the Maine Board        people in Kennebunkport could
of Pesticide Control, was particularly helpful       understand and respond to. Our
in linking them to groups with information           residents want our local lobster-
on that subject and his office subsequently          men to thrive. They and their
became a highly valued partner in every phase        industry are an intrinsic part of
of this project. As part of their exploration, the   the town’s character. Making the
commission also invited several lobstermen,          link between lawns and lobsters
representatives from the Maine Lobstermen’s
Association and organic and non-organic lawn
                                                     helped to grab the attention of
care professionals to attend their meetings to       residents and made it easier to
discuss the issue.                                   educate them on healthy lawn
                                                     care practices.”                                              Kennebunkport, Maine
With facts in hand, the commission then set          —Larry Mead, Town Manager
out to design their voluntary, town-wide

                                                                                                        451 Blackstrap Road, Falmouth, Maine 04105
                                                                                                                                      207-878-8933
                                                                                                                                 meacc@meacc.net
    Home Rules, Home Tools: Locally Led Conservation Achievements

[These questions and the revised BMPs were          are mandatory when toxic chemicals are used        LESSONS LEARNED
vetted through the ever-helpful Maine Board of      on a lawn. The signs can be found on the
Pesticide Control.]                                 lawns of all town buildings (town hall, library,   • Don’t alienate anyone. Our primary
                                                    police station, etc.), and on the lawns of           resistance came from lawn care companies
                                                    people who have adopted the tenets of the            who are responsible for caring for the
“The Lawns for Lobsters project                     Lawns for Lobsters program, and the stickers
has been a great success. I have                                                                         lawns of seasonal residents, who want the
                                                    are popping up on cars and trucks - including        “perfect lawn” for the few weeks that they
been assisting the town of                          those of some of the lobstermen - around town.
Kennebunkport’s Conservation                                                                             are here. We had several conversations
                                                                                                         with people from companies who thought
Commission help educate home-
                                                                                                         we were trying to hurt their businesses.
owners on the effects of what
                                                                                                         After talking to them, usually for quite a
harsh chemicals can do to our                                                                            while, we could generally agree that this
waters. The response has been                                                                            should be looked at as an opportunity, and
very positive from all homeowners                                                                        that we were actually trying to give them the
who want a lush green lawn, but                                                                          chance to participate.
don’t want to use the chemicals
that some companies are custom-                                                                        • Peer pressure seems to be a very effective
arily using. During the past six                                                                         tool. Having our signs on lawns has led to
months we have converted sever-                                                                          questions about what they represent and
al customers from chemical treat-                                                                        what it takes to get involved.
ments to organic treatments. The
Commission has done a tremen-                                                                          • There still is a great need for more
dous job in preparing the infor-                                                                         education - lots of people don’t know what
mation that is available........                                                                         the impact of chemicals actually is, and
In the long run, this is a win-win                                                                       how to avoid it. Persevere.
situation.”                                         According to former KCC chair and the leader
                                                    of this initiative, Nancy Kling, “We are very      • You do get people stepping up when you
—Dan Viehmann, owner, Dan                           encouraged by the response to our Lawns for
Viehmann Landscaping                                                                                     don’t expect it. We’ve been contacted by
                                                    Lobsters program. The idea that a great              people from condo associations wanting to
                                                    looking lawn can be a healthy one for our
                                                                                                         follow the program, from a woman who
                                                    families and for the environment is taking
During this process, the KCC worked for             hold. We’ll gear up again in the early spring        wanted packets of information to put in her
several months with an environmental studies        next year, to provide more education.”               chemical-using neighbors’ mailboxes, and
class taught at the University of New England.                                                           from a man whose house was on a garden
Students met with lobstermen, Gary Fish, the        Like all change efforts, Lawns for Lobsters          tour and who wanted us there to pass out
Maine Lobstermen’s Association and others,          will take several years to really take root, but     information.
and did substantial additional research. The        it’s well on its way to changing the way people
result was a presentation by the class at a well-   think about pesticide and fertilizer application
attended community forum explaining their           in Kennebunkport.
findings and the importance of the BMPs. The
class explained the steps than homeowners
can take to ensure a healthy lawn, why
questions should be asked of landscapers
before embarking on a lawn care program,
and how negative impacts can be reduced
while still having a green and attractive lawn.                                                        For more information, please visit:
They also developed a concise, attractive
brochure that the KCC is using as a handout.                                                           http://www.kennebunkportme.gov/
                                                                                                       Public_Documents/Kennebunkport
To gain visibility, the commission took the                                                            ME_BComm/conservation
Lawns for Lobsters theme and had car decals
printed, with a logo of a lobster holding a
shovel and the words “Lawns for Lobsters”
and “Fewer Chemicals, Cleaner Water” sur-
rounding it. They also turned these stickers
into small lawn signs, similar in size to the
“horrid chemicals applied here” signs which


For more information contact:                                                                          451 Blackstrap Road, Falmouth, Maine 04105
Nancy Kling, Kennebunkport Conservation Commission, 207-967-1097.                                                                    207-878-8933
                                                                                                                                meacc@meacc.net

				
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