Margaret Hudgings, on behalf of Dontsprayme, 8/18/16
Don’t Spray Me grew out of citizen concern about spraying in the Borough. The specific issue that rallied support was proposed spraying of Permanone by the Chester County Health Department in Marshall Square Park in late August/early September 2015. More than 300 people signed a petition against spraying and, with the support of Mayor Comitta and Borough Councilman Bill Scott, the Council decided on a “cease and desist” order to stop the spraying.
In October, the West Nile Task Force was formed to work together to reduce mosquitoes and any perceived need for spraying. The three groups involved in the task force are the Chester County Health Department, the Borough of West Chester Public Works Department and the citizen action group Don’tSprayMe. Our goals: reduce mosquitoes and the need for spraying and create a model for other communities to do the same. We would like to assemble a packet of materials that we can hand on to communities with the same mission acting as a model for Chester County and beyond.
Accomplishments to date:
The County and Borough are working together to apply larvicide to storm drains in the borough that have been identified as holding water and being potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The Borough has stepped up enforcement efforts at homes and businesses that have tires stored outside, tall weeds or standing water, especially in trash areas.
The Borough has purchased a vacuum cleaner for storm drains to rid them of debris.
Together we have worked on public education.
DontSprayMe is using as a model the work done in Shaker Heights, Ohio which instituted a 6 steps to spraying program in their community in 2002 along with rigorous surveillance of mosquito populations and has never resorted to spraying.
We are creating a committee structure modeled on Shaker Heights: Statistics–examining mosquito count data; Chemicals–evaluating chemicals in use and most importantly: Community Education.
Don’t Spray Me has assembled a group of 105 block captains who go door to door in their neighborhoods talking about mosquitoes and educating people about the importance of getting rid of standing water. The first task of the block captains was to deliver a letter from Mayor Comitta which introduced the new mosquito reduction efforts. Block captains also followup looking for standing water. Block captains report problems which are then brought to the attention of Public Works or are addressed in the neighborhood. We have had 2 situations in which elderly residents were helped by neighbors to rid a swimming pool cover in one case and an unused jacuzzi in the other. There is a new awareness of standing water with most people working hard to be sure that they do not have any at their homes. The next task for the block captains is to distribute a door hanger created by the WNTF as a reminder. An important outcome of these efforts is neighbors helping neighbors and a connected community network of concerned citizens.
DSM created a website and a Facebook page. Our logo. a baby in a gas mask, was drawn by a Slovenian artist who gave us permission to use the image. We now use this logo on our website and Facebook page and have made buttons and yard signs with the image. More than 140 yard signs are on display at people’s homes throughout the borough, attracting a great deal of attention to our efforts. The sign includes our web address so people can learn more about the issue.
We are trying through our block captain network to be sure to reach low income residents and senior citizens. We provide art materials to summer camps programs so that the children can make posters about reducing mosquitoes and spraying. Many downtown businesses are displaying the posters. Funds to support these efforts were requested through CCHD which will look into including funding for these efforts in next year’s budget.
We created a DontSprayMe subcommittee of the Sierra Club, working with the local chapter. Through this collaboration we have made contact with people in Uwchlan and Tredyffrin Townships interested in reducing spraying in their communities. We have members from East Bradford, Westtown Twp. and West Goshen on the WNTF.
We are also doing outreach at community events such as Swingin’ Summer Thursdays, sharing a table with the Sierra Club.
We are working with Friends of Everhart Park and have made contact with the Marshall Square Park as well. We are following members’ interests and have contacted Kendall-Crosslands and the Penn State Extension Service for information on building bat houses. Two of our members are contacting neighbors who may want one at their house. Bats are very helpful as they eat lots of mosquitoes.
We have block captains who are working with BID to inform and involve the business community in our efforts.
DSM had a picnic for block captains in June and will have another event for the whole community at the end of the summer.
DSM is a group of citizens who could be available to help with other Borough environmental causes, acting as a labor force for the Sustainability Committee