Last spring, in an effort to score some quick points with the Lyme disease loonies in the local Republican Party (notably our very our own right-wing religious fundamentalist, anti-evolutionist, Christian triumphalist, and Lyme loonie extraordinaire Michael Farris), our all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors ordered up $10,000 worth of toxic chemical pesticides sprayed on hundreds of acres of county parks. More than 95 percent of the area sprayed was open fields, exactly where you’re not supposed to spray for ticks according to all the experts (since that is not where ticks are found — but it is where honeybees forage).
Moreover, since the available scientific evidence shows that (a) most people who are infected with Lyme disease from a tick bite are exposed in their own yards (b) spraying is ineffective in preventing Lyme disease transmission and (c) by far the single most effective measure people can take to protect themselves is simply to use insect repellent when outdoors and check themselves for ticks — it was clear that this was not only an environmentally destructive, financially irresponsible, politically motivated, and hastily conceived public-relations stunt, but was completely useless as well.
Still, you might think — if you didn’t know our all-Republican Board of Supervisors, that is — that there was some evaluation, analysis, scientific expertise, or even minimal brain activity that went into the selection of the particular parks to be hit with this chemical assault. Were they parks that were known to have particularly high tick populations? Were they parks that were the most heavily used, thus potentially exposing the greatest number of people to tick bites? Were they parks with the greatest number of woodland trails that lead through the habitats where ticks are most found? Were they the parks where the cost-benefit ratio of spraying would produce the greatest results per dollar spent?
Well, we now have the explanation! Our fearless disease-fighting Board of Supervisors has added a new point to its “10 point action plan” on Lyme disease. (Since they didn’t want to mess up such a catchy slogan as “10 point action plan” they called this new point “10a.”) And in it they reveal that the reason these parks were “identified and selected” for spraying was . . . because they were easy to spray. But let them say it in their own inimitable words:
10a) Spraying county-owned property: In addition to studying the cost and feasibility of spraying county-owned properties, immediately begin a pilot program that targets six western parks that have been identified and selected based upon their small to moderate sizes, geographic locations, and logistical ease of spraying.
In other words, there was no basis at all for selecting these parks, except that they wanted to spray something, and do it fast. Which we sort of suspected from the start.