Letter: Hazardous chemicals among reasons Oak Hills should shrink

Chemicals stored at Oak Hills Park in Norwalk. (Photo by Yvonne Lopaur)

NORWALK, Conn. – These are pictures I took in Oak Hills Park.

The Oak Hills Park Authority is also storing hazardous material in a larger warehouse. (Photo and caption by Yvonne Lopaur)

They provide another argument for reducing the 18-hole course to nine holes.  A smaller course would mean less harmful chemical use, less water use, less money spent to purchase and store hazardous material, and less damage to the environment. 

As an examination of the Oak Hills Park Authority’s expenditures makes clear, the Authority spends many thousands of dollars on chemicals.  But precisely what those chemicals are and how harmful they are to the environment is not something it advertises. Furthermore, as these pictures demonstrate, the manner in which the Authority stores the large amount of hazardous materials it uses may be cause for concern.


Yvonne Lopaur

Chemicals are stored in this warehouse at Oak Hills Park in Norwalk. (Photo by Yvonne Lopaur)


16 responses to “Letter: Hazardous chemicals among reasons Oak Hills should shrink”

  1. Notaffiliated

    In order to have putting greens and fairways not filled with weeds, golf courses use pesticides. It’s not just Oak Hills – if you’re going to pick on Oak Hills, you might as well indict all of New Canaan and Greenwich for any green grass.

  2. Suzanne

    There is a way to make golf courses “greener” without using a huge amount of pesticides and not look like St. Andrews (American golfers are very fussy about that “green look.”) I worked on Round Hill Country Club in the past and they have the highest Audubon rating for environmental practices. The fairways are intact with out weeds, the putting greens as pristine as any. It is a lack of education or willingness to institute different, more environmentally friendly, practices that keeps buildings labeled “poison” at Oak Hills, not the possibility of using different practices to achieve a better course without extensive pesticide use.

    From Links Golf Magazine:

    “Increasingly, course superintendents are making their courses greener, and not just in the color of the grass. Leading the way are those at the 663 courses in the U.S. that Audubon International has certified as either Cooperative or Signature Sanctuaries. These green spaces, which represent just four percent of all courses in the U.S., have been recognized for their practices, which include limited pesticide use, enhanced wildlife habitats and initiatives like solar-powered carts and geothermal clubhouses.”

    There are many more articles, reviews of courses using “environmentally friendly practices” and “game plans” that suggest steps to take in order to alter daily practices to make golf courses greener. They are site specific of course but they are in use, practical and possible.

    The general perception that it is impossible is just not correct with standards first developed in 2006 and many courses now meeting those standards. Oak Hills has the opportunity for that distinction. Pesticide use in a traditional fashion is very expensive (that is one cost factor that has been divulged by the OHPA) and very polluting to runoff, ground water and, ultimately, adjacent waterways and the Sound. While different practices might require different thinking and a bit more aggressive, read labor intensive, processes, the benefits both monetarily and to the environment have been proved.

  3. EveT

    Could it be that the “Poison” signs on the warehouse doors are required, or recommended, by insurance carriers as a deterrent against kids trying to get in an play around with whatever they find inside? Another question is, how does the Oak Hills use of lawn chemicals compare to the lawn chemicals used in Norwalk’s other parks?

  4. the donut hole

    This letter is brought to you by Zoloft.

  5. Tom Reynolds

    Oh yea. I’m sure they’re stockpiling WMD’s so that they can attack the citizens of West Norwalk.
    Oak Hills is actually looking at alternative fertilizing methods, as are most golf courses in America.

  6. spanner

    I look and see a potential problem if these sheds catch fire,airborne can hurt many so your right Tom forget those kids and elderly and animals.The mere fact eletrical wires seem to be hanging is somewhat concerning.Then again the report from the Norwalk fire showing depth of dikes inside door number one alarm system in door number two and no lock on door number three shouldn’t be a problem we have a profesional paid fire dept not like Rowyaton to respond with paperwork in hand whats behind all doors.The fact some ferts mixed with fuel could bring down the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Inside a vehicle that was a powerful bomb made out of a deadly cocktail of agricultural fertilizer, diesel fuel, and other chemicals.Lets trust the highly talented fire chief in Norwalk and his response attack and fire ground plans if anything was any danger and if there is anything there like I just mentioned.Wasn’t he involved in numbering doors at schools why would he not take care of us in Norwalk with the same kind of concern with his own men and residents of our great city just number these be done with it.Maybe because we have such talent running Norwalks fire dept it would be a given they have told the police if they were to find a problem first to get in the cruiser and drive up wind of any problems and not approach an open door,I think we are all fairly safe nothing will happen to us Tom.Im sure Norwalk fire is all over this as our dedicated police officers are also trained in Hazmat situations so yes Tom its all a bunch of falling sky people who have no clue what could be behind those doors.If the fire dept is ok with this I am as well why question things like this according to some officials questions cost money why spend any more on public saftey we are safe as a city are we not?

    Seriously call the fire dept get the plan in case there is a fire one should be there unless Toms right nothing to worry about a plan is not needed its a golf course people.

    Now I’ll wait for my expert EMT guy to tell me what the ambulances have for a release of chemicals to ensure Norwalk Hospital has a handle on this as well.We know they drill for contamination calls all the time.Norwalk has nothing to worry about the buildings are probably empty the poison signs probably hide illegal card games. jeez over reaction I agree Tom.

  7. spanner

    I feel like Peter Falk oh another thing

    Fertilizer Ammonium nitrate is a salt of ammonium and nitric acid, and its chemical composition is NH4NO3, or an ammonium and a nitrate ion. This substance is a colorless crystalline solid. It is typically used as a fertilizer, as the nitrogen in this compound is easily used by plants. It is also used as an explosive or in pyrotechnics. While fairly stable under ordinary circumstances, heating ammonium nitrate can have an explosive effect.When ammonium nitrate is dissolved in water, it breaks down into its ions: ammonium and nitrate. The reaction of ammonium nitrate dissolving is unusual in that it is endothermic and dissolved ammonium nitrate will feel cool for some time. Neither the water nor ammonium nitrate are changed in any other way other than the ammonium nitrate is dissolved. However, when aqueous or dissolved ammonium nitrate is heated, the solution breaks down to release nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.

    Bottom line is does the golf course use this stuff or anything like it if they do the laugh will be on us.

  8. Paul Cantor

    In answer to Eve T’s two questions:

    Q1. Could it be that the “Poison” signs on the warehouse doors are required, or recommended, by insurance carriers as a deterrent against kids trying to get in and play around with whatever they find inside?

    This is something that we should know the answer to. What is the reason the poison signs are there? What chemicals are behind those doors? How dangerous are those chemicals?

    Q2. How does the Oak Hills use of lawn chemicals compare to the lawn chemicals used in Norwalk’s other parks?

    Poisonous chemicals, to my knowledge, are not used in Norwalk’s other parks. And the total amount of money spent on maintaining those parks does not come near to the amount of money required to maintain the golf course.

    As the article on golf courses in Wikipedia points out:

    “Environmental concerns over the use of land for golf courses have grown over the past fifty years. Specific issues include the amount of water required for irrigation and the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in maintenance, as well as the destruction of wetlands and other environmentally important areas during construction.”

    Furthermore as this excerpt from an article by Susan Cosier published in the September-October 2013 Audubon Magazine points out:

    “Maintaining fairways and greens typically requires heavy applications of pesticides and fertilizers—which can run off and pollute local waterways—not to mention enormous quantities of water. A study published in 2006 in the journal Sport in Society reported that although the amount of chemicals sprayed on courses varies, an average of 1.5 tons of agrochemicals—some of them known carcinogens—is used on golf courses every year. What’s more, 90 percent of those substances, when sprayed, end up in the air, where people inhale them. Building golf courses also destroys habitat and muddies streams to the detriment of aquatic life.”

    So here are a few questions of my own:

    Just how devastating would it be for golfers in Norwalk if the course were reduced to nine holes? How many of them require a regulation 18-hole course because they aspire to wind up on the professional circuit? Might not some of them especially enjoy coming to a park where their kids and significant others could spend time at a nature center or playing ball while they played a nine hole round? Don’t any of them realize that a driving range built and operated by Total Driving Range Solutions is clearly not the answer to the Oak Hills Park’s financial problems or the way to salvage the municipal golf course in Oak Hills Park but that reducing the course to nine holes may well may be. As Brandon Tucker, a senior staff writer for World Golf put it, “The 18-hole-or-bust standard may very well be one of the main reasons golf is in a state of decline.” Do all the golfers in Norwalk disagree with him?

  9. the donut hole

    great shot of the 345kv power lines overhead. let’s stop pretending this place is a wild life preserve.

  10. Charles Brennan

    Paul, you and the friends of Oak Hills are the only people that want a 9 hole golf course. The rounds at Oak Hills were up last year as the course gets better and better. Who is going to pay for your park the tax payers who don’t pay anything now, I think that will go over well with the amount of taxes that residents already pay. How many baseball and soccer fields do we have for people who will never play at a professional level or don’t use them why don’t we get rid of them also or cut them in half.

  11. cc-rider

    This has got to be the most pointless article I have ever read. Please explain how the pictures show anything different here than at any other golf course in America? Any golf course maintenance area is going look similar to this one. If the author had an ounce of common sense, they would have reached out to the golf course superintendent with any questions or concerns. The course superintendent is the expert in this area and can give all the data everyone here is speculating about. It is a lot easier to be a keyboard warrior than to have an actual discussion with a human being. Who really cares what a writer from a golf magazine thinks? Does the writer live in Norwalk or know what the golf scene in Fairfield county is like?

  12. Casey Smith

    You know, all I’ve been hearing about the golf course is what a problem it is; now how it’s a heath hazard; how it’s costing the taxpayers money; not green enough; etc. And after thinking about it, along with the rising taxes in Norwalk, not enough money for schools and the unemployment numbers increasing, maybe the City should sell the golf course to some nice developer, oh, like Donald Trump, who can put an eight story mall with a parking garage and a 22 screen multiplex on the site. That would generate jobs, tax revenue and the ever precious parking for the City.
    Or maybe we can do a land swap with the people who want to build a mosque. Then everybody would be happy.
    NCC might also be interested if they wanted to purchase the land as another campus with more class rooms or maybe dorms. We could make history as the first city with a top notch community college that has dorms. The possibilities are endless.
    Regardless of what the City decides to do, it’s pretty clear that the neighbors are offended by the very existence of the golf course there and want it gone. So, let’s give them what they want.
    And for those who don’t “get” sarcasm, let me sum it up in a single sentence. They doth protest too much.

  13. Suzanne

    Actually, Mr. Smith, I believe the land upon which Oak Hills sits is designated as parkland in perpetuity and unavailable to developers, just so your sarcasm becomes even more meaningful. cc-rider, your comments question whether I live in Norwalk or know about the golf scene in Fairfield County: the answer is yes to both. I still maintain that a greener course, in terms of sustainable, environmentally friendly practices, is better for everyone including the long term use of and financial soundness of the Course. The quote from the Golf Magazine is just one example of where one trend, very important overall to the longevity of golf courses, especially in the west, is going in golf and how golf could be a contributor to a better environment for everyone and not just a “taker.” I love the sport and see the potential for improvement. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless progress is a word only applied singularly to other 21st Century endeavors. Golf has changed from its inception: why not now?

  14. Betsy Wrenn

    Statistics have proven that golf course managers have a higher rate than average of contracting the types of cancers caused by pesticide exposure. It’s not hard to find this information.

    In May 2014, a sportscaster in Philadelphia filed suit for the wrongful death of his father, a golf course superintendent, who died of a cancer that can be linked to the pesticides he handled for years. [link below]


    I would be happy to have my city take more interest in which poisons are being applied to our municipal course. The surrounding neighbors on well water should certainly be interested in knowing. Fracking has taught us how blithe we humans can be about poisoning our own water supplies for profit.

    Thank you, Nancy on Norwalk!

  15. spanner

    Betsy if we had qualified people on the mayors task force that could answer any doubt whats going on at the golf course that wasn’t beholding to the Mayor maybe we would have some reason to feel good about environment in Norwalk.Seems they can’t clean up the city one lot at a time so pipe dream antics on our green living seems to be the way to go.

    Stamford had help thats why it took so long to uncover and start to uderstand whats in the water.Simple rookie talent is what Stamford needed whats Norwalk going to use?

    find sediment in storm drains where run off can occur after applications are done,the State has outlets for this maybe you can find something to start the task force rolling.

  16. Suzanne

    spanner, I love this suggestion. It takes the speculation off of the keyboard and into real scientific data. And you are correct: the State does have soil analysis for contaminants. The guidelines for these submissions can be found out through any Ag Extension office.

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