How one small Maine town banned using chemical pesticides on all town land


I was part of a small committee that worked on Ogunquit’s landmark ordinance banning chemical pesticides on private land – we already had an ordinance in place banning chemical pesticides on town land.

I was never so aware of the chemical pesticides used on lawns, gardens and shrubbery – we never used them growing up and I never used them on my lawns – until one day after work, coming home from a walk, my wife and I watched as a man from a lawn care company sprayed our garden and bushes with a hose from his tank truck.

He had mistaken our property for our neighbor’s – my wife wrote a letter to our Select Board, they forwarded it to the Conservation Commission, and so the Commission decided to go for a ban of chemical pesticides on all property in town. I joined the Ogunquit Conservation Commission soon afterward, but I still feel that my wife’s letter protesting wholesale property chemical pesticide spraying started it all.


Our first attempt to pass this ordinance banning chemical pesticides on all town land failed by a handful of votes, helped, no doubt, by illegal leafleting on voters’ doors suggesting chemical pesticides were harmless, courtesy of RISE, a group supported by chemical companies.

Decades of research has shown chemical pesticides linked to a long list of illnesses and physical problems.

We rewrote our ordinance, including a few more exceptions. The Maine Board of Pesticide Control wanted others – paint, swimming pool chemicals, tick collars, for example.

Then we sent letters explaining why we thought banning chemical pesticides and herbicides was the right thing to do to all who had voted in the last town election.  We backed this up, by calling each voter asking for support for this ordinance banning chemical pesticides.

That ordinance passed, but due to a clerical error – it wasn’t sent to the Maine Board of Pesticide Control within 30 days of passage – that Board declared it null and void.

We passed our landmark ordinance with flying colors on the next town vote, and thus became the first town in Maine and the first in the nation passed by voters, the second in the country after Takoma Park, Maryland, to ban chemical pesticides on all town lands.


Bill Baker

About Bill Baker

Bill's interest in a clean place to live is rooted in growing up in the country – a cornfield across the road and fields, sandstone cliffs and hundreds of acres of woods where he spent many hours.