PLATTSBURGH — A few weeks ago, Mary Canales noticed something peculiar alongside the Terry Gordon Bike Path.
A resident of Lake Country Village, Canales said she often travels that City of Plattsburgh trail.
Usually lush on its east side, toward the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and Lake Champlain, a section neighboring Lake Forest Senior Living Community, she said, had been no longer.
“All of the foliage had been chemically treated,” Canales said. “Everything was just dead.
“It really looked like a wildfire went through that area.”
Lake Forest Executive Director Kevin Defayette said the senior living operation had sprayed a herbicide on the foliage there.
“To maintain the panoramic view of the lake,” Defayette said. “It opens it up for everybody that uses the bike path — not just for Lake Forest, but for the wider community.”
A generic form of Roundup had been used, he said.
“It’s sold by local vendors,” Defayette added. “It’s widely used on farms and by homeowners.”
The herbicide had been sprayed on leaves to be absorbed by the plants and later kill them at their roots, he added.
“We reviewed the (material safety data sheets) beforehand and felt comfortable using it,” Defayette said. “We followed all precautions.
“It’s safe for the environment.”
Canales did have environmental concerns, though.
“All of the birds and all of the little animals that used to live in all of that — they’re gone now,” she said. “There’s no habitat for them.”
And, she wondered, what about the use of an herbicide so close to Lake Champlain?
After alerting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Canales said an officer was sent to assess the situation.
That officer hadn’t been concerned with chemicals soaking into the nearby body of water, but Canales wasn’t so convinced.
“You don’t know for sure,” she said. “It just shouldn’t, in my opinion, be allowed.”
An August 2015 City Common Council resolution advised city residents against the use of pesticides in the practice of lawn care and beautification.
The resolution sites, per scientific studies, adverse impacts of herbicides, including danger to honeybees and alleged contribution to cancers and other diseases.
“Commercial interests are encouraged to find alternatives to neonicotinoids and glyphosate in their operations,” the resolution says.
Roundup, which contains glyphosate, would fit that category.
The plants sprayed by Lake Forest had sat on City of Plattsburgh property.
City Corporation Counsel Dean Schneller said, in general, such access and work to city-owned property would require municipality permission via a license agreement.
“Further,” he said, “if the access and work was to take place on the CP-Rail right-of-way, their permission would be required, as well.”
Mayor Colin Read said there had been no such action authorizing that type of work or access on city-owned property within the past two months.
And upon discovering the work performed near Lake Forest Retirement Home, Schneller said, the City of Plattsburgh sent a letter to Lake Forest, should they have been involved, that highlighted its related policies.
That included the 2015 resolution concerning the application of pesticides and/or herbicides.
Defayette said Lake Forest did not have a comment regarding the city’s policies, but said they would need to be in touch with city officials.
City Councilor Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1) was upset to hear of the lost vegetation.
“I don’t recall of any council action,” she said. “I would have never have approved of that.
“I don’t think any councilor would have.”
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