Ashland parks workers will be allowed to spray chemical herbicides on weeds growing in traffic medians on North Main Street as it enters town from the northwest.
A "road diet" that narrowed the street from four lanes to two and created a center turn lane and bike lanes in 2012 has put parks workers at increased danger from vehicles driving past, Ashland Parks and Recreation Department managers said.
"It's unsafe to manually control weeds there," said parks Superintendent Bruce Dickens, noting that workers will spend less time out on the dangerous medians if they can kill weeds with herbicides.
"It reduces staff time out there and the amount of time we have to divert traffic into the bike lane," he said.
Traffic is shifted into the bike lane to create a buffer zone for workers while they're in the medians, Dickens said.
Parks workers maintain landscaped traffic medians around town as part of their duties.
Earlier this week, parks commissioners approved the use of herbicides on the North Main Street traffic medians.
Parks managers did not ask to spray in medians that are often used by pedestrians, such as those along Siskiyou Boulevard as it passes by Southern Oregon University.
Since 2011, the Parks Commission has banned the use of chemical herbicides and insecticides in most areas the parks department maintains.
Commissioner Rick Landt said the commission adopted the ban to help protect humans and the environment.
When weighing the potential damage herbicides can cause when sprayed in the traffic medians versus the danger to parks workers from trying to manually control weeds there, Landt said worker safety is more important.
"Staff has to work on a busy highway," he said. North Main Street also doubles as Highway 99.
Dickens said workers will spot spray weeds in the medians. The spraying likely will take place twice a year, in the spring and fall.
Eventually, as the herbicides kill weeds and prevent weed seeds, parks workers may be able to reduce the herbicide spraying to once each year, Dickens estimated.
Once the weeds are reduced, workers also can start using methods such as mulching and adding more plants to crowd out weeds, he said.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.