Boulder, CO Residents Help Transition Neighborhood Spaces to Organic Turf Maintenance

May 20, 2022
Soil Samples in a BHP neighborhood

While all managed turf on the City of Boulder properties has been maintained pesticide and herbicide-free since 2002, Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) has been interested in transitioning to organic for several years, but didn’t have the resources or model to do it. BHP owns and maintains 35 community housing developments within the City of Boulder. Youth under the age of 18 live in approximately 33% of these homes.

The Bright Cities program provided an opportunity for BHP and city staff to implement a pilot project that transitioned three BHP properties to chemical-free turf maintenance, inherently making the community safer for its smallest residents. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of exposure to herbicides and other pesticides than adults. 

Why? Children often play on the ground and put toys and their hands in their mouths exposing them to herbicides and other chemicals applied to lawns. Children have faster metabolic rates than adults and drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults for their body size.

“The partnership with Bright Cities and the City of Boulder helped us take the first steps to convert our communities to organic lawn care. It would have been very difficult to start this conversion without their help,” said Tim Beal, Director of Sustainable Communities, Boulder Housing Partners.

Chip Osborne regularly consults nationally about organic turf management for athletic fields and landscapes and works with Bright Cities Missoula and Salt Lake City, BHP residents, and city staff. He dug soil samples in three BHP communities. These samples provided information about the soil texture, chemistry and soil foodwebs. Site-specific plans to transition the turf to organic maintenance were developed based on these results and were implemented this spring.


City staff and partners published an organic lawn care guide for residents in English and Spanish with practical steps to reduce exposures to lawn chemicals. Among other things, the guide shares three plans for an organic lawn—the good, better, and best plans. Other cities are encouraged to adapt this guide for local outreach and engagement. Bright City Missoula did just that. Read their guide here.

Finally, BHP and city staff developed free organic turf maintenance training opportunities for large and small landscape contractors. As part of a partnership with a BHP job-training program, educators will visit families living on the pilot sites to share information about how to reduce neurotoxic exposures at home.

“The Bright Cities grant provided a seed that blossomed into a partnership between BHP and the City. This allowed us to get contractors interested in new learning practices; to create pilot programs for residents; and helped us determine that there is a market for predominantly small LatinX contractors for this work. This project points in all directions to supporting local capacity to support chemical-free turf maintenance. And this means a healthier city for babies and all residents,” said Rella Abernathy, Senior Ecologist for the City of Boulder.



Interested in learning more? Contact Mr. Tim Beal, Director of Sustainable Communities at Boulder Housing Partners at

Is your City interested in being part of Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ Bright Cities program? To discuss this and anything else, please contact Bright Cities Program Director, Kyra Naumoff Shields at