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Smaller, remote lawn bowling clubs fear Ontario pesticide ban may jeopardize their futures

October 19, 2010  By  Mike Jiggens

ONTARIO’S cosmetic pesticide ban act is nearing the end of its second
full season of enforcement, and it’s not only the lawn care industry
that has felt its impact. Smaller, geographically-isolated lawn bowling
clubs are hurting, too.

Although lawn bowling, like golf, has been granted exemption status under the provincial legislation, chemical control of the sport’s greens falls under the heading of “specialty turf,” meaning applicators must not only be licensed, but must also be fully accredited in integrated pest management (IPM). bowlingweb

It’s this stipulation which has put many lawn bowling clubs’ backs against the wall and has made it financially challenging for them to continue their operations.

The Deep River Lawn Bowling Club, located between Ottawa and North Bay, is one such club. Its president and greenmaster, Terry Trottier, said the Ontario government has made it “extremely difficult” for clubs such as his to remain viable.

“The greens are our blood,” he said of the sport’s playing surface. “If this died, we would have to close down.”

Although the legislation still allows lawn bowling clubs to control fungi with chemical products, the fact that they must be applied by licensed and IPM accredited applicators has made it cost-prohibitive for many of the smaller clubs.

Trottier said that prior to the act’s implementation, the Deep River club had hired an outside individual who simply had his applicator’s licence.

“He charged us a fairly decent fee to do it.”

This individual, however, had reached retirement age and didn’t wish to go through the expense and commitment of becoming IPM accredited, figuring the amount of work he’d be doing wouldn’t make it worth his while.

Not being able to afford to have someone within the club’s organization accredited, it opted to hire the services of a newly-accredited employee from a nearby golf course.
“The problem is, it’s costing us a lot of money.”

Trottier said Deep River’s green was sprayed three times this season, costing the club $1,000, not including the expense of the chemical itself and the fees for the necessary paperwork.

Two separate costs are involved in getting an individual legally prepared to apply a chemical pesticide: the cost of becoming IPM accredited and the cost of an applicator’s licence. Trottier said clubs such as his don’t have the resources to send someone to become certified in both areas.

A search to find qualified personnel in Deep River’s vicinity produced three individuals, but none was interested in doing what was required at the lawn bowling club. There were others found in the search who were certified to spray the green, but they resided in either North Bay or Ottawa.

“We can’t afford to contract them from there,” Trottier said.

Communications with government representatives regarding the plight of smaller, isolated lawn bowling clubs have resulted in little optimism, he said, adding he was told that clubs must either adapt to the current legislation or close their doors.

“They don’t care.”

The Deep River Lawn Bowling Club has been operating for the past 35 years and currently has about 60 members. The number was recently bolstered by the infusion of several new junior members, but Trottier said it will be challenging to keep their fees affordable in the wake of the pesticide ban.

So far, the club has been able to keep its membership fees in check through various fundraising initiatives as garage sales, strawberry socials and tournaments, but Trottier said fees may have to be significantly elevated one day in order to offset the costs associated with complying with the legislation.

“It can happen,” he said.

In a recent email message to Trottier, Arja Nesbitt, president of the Ontario Lawn Bowling Association, said her organization has found it difficult to help member clubs with their plight.

“The OLBA has never had to face these kinds of problems before,” she said. “We’re in totally foreign territory trying to help find solutions for our clubs. In the past, before these strict regulations came into effect, the greenskeepers (many of them volunteers) looked after the greens to the best of the abilities. They may have contracted outside companies when pesticides were needed.”

Teri Yamada, executive director of the IPM Council of Canada, has established a series of workshops for lawn bowling clubs, with a focus on how they are to complete their annual reports.

“It is my hope that when greenskeepers and other club members are gathered together, there will be some sharing about the various types of problems,” Nesbitt said. “These meetings should be used as starting points to finding solutions.”

A major task for lawn bowling clubs, she acknowledged, is to find someone within to serve as an IPM agent.

Nesbitt said it is important for lawn bowling clubs to attend these workshops so that they fully understand the legislation.

“We need to understand that while pesticides can still be used, that can only happen when IPM regulations have been met. We must also learn how to complete the required annual reports.”

Nesbitt agreed with Trottier about the distinct possibility of membership fees having to be increased in order to comply with the government legislation.

“Clubs will have to face some difficult tasks. They may have to pay their greenskeepers and they most certainly will have to pay the IPM-accredited agents to apply pesticides on the greens when necessary. As a result, membership fees may have to be increased. If bowlers don’t care enough about these issues, lawn bowling clubs will go bankrupt and close their doors. We have to care enough about the sport to make sure that does not happen.”

The following comment was made by an OLBA board member:

“When I look at the situation myself, and when I listen to the concerns voiced by some of the clubs in my own district, I can see that there are several issues that need to be dealt with. All greenskeepers need to deal with fungi and weeds along with ants and worms. Not to deal with these things will mean a substandard playing surface. The use of pesticides is now tightly controlled, requiring someone (usually a contractor) who is IPM-certified. This will usually cost much more than was previously the case. No doubt the reduced use of pesticides will greatly improve our ecology. It may do so, however, at the cost of the sport of lawn bowling.”

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