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.

Bill Baker

Bill Baker

My 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 I spent many hours.

I was never quite aware of the chemical pesticides used on lawns, gardens and shrubbery until one day after work, coming home from a walk, my wife and I watched as a man 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.

Our first attempt to pass this ordinance failed by a handful of votes, helped, no doubt, by illegal leafleting from RISE, a chemical company group, on peoples’ doors suggesting chemical pesticides were harmless.

Decades of research has shown this to be false.

That first attempt was a strict ordinance with few exceptions. We rewrote our ordinance, allowing a few exceptions. The Maine Board of Pesticide Control wanted others – paint, swimming pool chemicals, tick collars, for example.

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